Employees at the Journal de Québec have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a deal in principle with their employer, starting the process to end the labour conflict after more than 14 months out of work.
The deal, worked out overnight during intense negotiations, includes the following points:
- A five-year contract
- 2.5% pay increases per year
- An end to outsourcing of classified jobs to Kanata, Ont.
- A four-day, 37.5-hour work week (9 hours, 22 minutes and 30 seconds a day), except for classified which work 37.5 hours over five days
- A week more of vacation for part-time/temporary workers who have worked more than 10 years
- A guaranteed minimum number of journalists covering Quebec City news, but allowing reporters to perform multimedia jobs
- Changes to pensions and retirement benefits, plus a bunch of other stuff that I’m sure even union members didn’t care much about
The union says that MédiaMatinQuébec will continue publishing until the employees return to work, which is still weeks away.
The terms of this deal seem to be a pretty solid down-the-middle compromise on key points (which prompts me to ask the question: Why the heck did it take so long to hammer out a deal?). The 2.5% per year increase and 37.5-hour work week is consistent with the employer’s demands, but the workers keep their four-day week intact and avoid outsourcing of jobs to non-unionized employees elsewhere.
The announcement doesn’t go into much detail about the other main issue: asking workers to perform multimedia jobs in addition to print reporting. It will be interesting how this major sticking point is eventually resolved.
This conflict has had mixed reaction from the public. Some have questioned some of the seemingly unreasonable clauses the contracts contain (starting with the four-day work week) and said the Journal needs much more flexibility. But most came out on the side of the workers, thanks in large part to MédiaMatinQuébec which laid out their position on a daily basis and made them out to be the underdog against the evil corporate media empire of Quebecor.
If this conflict is finally resolved, it will be good news for the Journal, good news for its workers, and will change the face of media union pressure tactics here for a long time.
But in the end, only one winner emerges from the prolonged, 14-month conflict at the Journal de Québec: Le Soleil, its direct competition.
Comparisons to the Montreal Star, which folded after a prolonged strike, are already being made.
Now we wait and see what happens at the Journal de Montréal, which is also in contract negotiations.
UPDATE: LCN has some interviews and other video on the subject.
Commentary on the matter also from:
- La Presse’s Patrick Lagacé
- JDQ columnist Michel Hébert
- MédiaMatinQuébec itself (Thursday’s edition (PDF) has it on the front page, along with a big Bonne Fête Québec in a funny little coincidence)
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