Journal de Montréal: 89.3% vote against offer

Workers of the Journal de Montréal have voted 89.3% against a contract offer that would have seen only 50 of 253 locked-out employees keep their jobs.

The offer was the result of negotiations held under a blackout, and while neither side would confirm that one was on the table (they wouldn’t even confirm that a meeting was being held to vote on it), some details had leaked out through the media, which notes that it is unchanged from the offer the employer tabled last month:

  • The deal would have seen only 50 of 253 jobs kept, among them only 17 journalists (out of 65), five editors and four photographers. The employer would choose who could keep their jobs
  • It would have required the shutting down of, at least temporarily (UPDATE: No, it was permanent) and a promise not to launch any competing newspapers
  • Those losing their jobs would be prohibited from working for La Presse or Cyberpresse for a period of time
  • In exchange, the employer would offer unspecified severance pay to those losing their jobs

The vote is unsurprising, if only because 80% of those voting would have lost their jobs (and been prevented from seeking equivalent jobs elsewhere), and even though some of those might have been close to retirement and decided that some money was better than none, a strong feeling of solidarity in the union was more than enough to overcome those who were tired of the conflict and wanted a quick end at any cost.

Even though the lockout is in its 21st month, the Rue Frontenac operation is still in high gear, and is in fact gearing up. The union plans to launch a weekly paper version of Rue Frontenac this month. Meanwhile, there are hints of a parliamentary commission to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The union was quick to issue a release announcing the offer’s rejection (the blackout having been lifted). It includes this quote from union head Raynald Leblanc: “C’est une insulte envers nous, mais aussi envers tous les lecteurs du Journal de Montréal. Comment peut-on prétendre faire un journal de qualité avec aussi peu de personnel?”

Selon lui, le plan de Quebecor est simple. Moins d’information, plus de profits. En fait, la nouvelle salle de rédaction du Journal de Montréal n’aurait plus de journalistes à l’économie, ni aucun chroniqueur salarié. Tout proviendrait de l’extérieur, via l’Agence QMI, qui bafoue sans vergogne le principe d’étanchéité des salles de nouvelles.

Pire, l’entreprise a indiqué vouloir garder ses 25 cadres à la rédaction, ceux-ci se retrouveraient donc à superviser 32 employés. « Il est clair que l’arrogance de Quebecor est liée à l’interprétation restrictive faite par les tribunaux des dispositions anti-briseurs de grève. S’il y avait un tel ratio de cadres dans le système de santé, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec, TVA et LCN en feraient leurs manchettes et dénonceraient cette situation absurde », affirme Raynald Leblanc.

Quebecor also issued a release saying it was “profoundly disappointed” in the offer’s rejection. It gave its side of events in the next day’s Journal, downplaying the number of job cuts by playing around with numbers of part-time staff, those on disability or those near retirement.

Rue Frontenac, which stayed away from the story until after the meeting (becoming the only news outlet not to report on the story at first) simply pointed to other news outlets’ reports on the subject (for “objectivity’s” sake) and then published this rather non-objective piece on the subject.

LCN, to their credit, covered the vote fairly.

UPDATE: More commentary from:

Trente also interviews Leblanc on his feelings about the offer.

6 thoughts on “Journal de Montréal: 89.3% vote against offer

  1. Goaltender Interference

    “Selon lui, le plan de Quebecor est simple. Moins d’information, plus de profits.”

    That’s a bit facile. Obviously cutting staff will often mean less output but could mean greater profits. After all, you’re in business to make money, not to produce a great newspaper out of the goodness of your heart.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to justify the owner’s non-competition demands from the union. What possible justification could they have, other than wanting the employees to bear the costs of a management decision to engage in layoffs? Usually, non-competition clauses are for employees that have secret insider knowledge that the competition could take unfair advantage of. But since they’ve all been off the job for 2 years, that seems pretty unlikely.

  2. AlexH

    Sadly for the Union members, Quebecor has figured out they can produce a newspaper that sells as well as it did before (better actually) for a significantly lower cost, while also providing more news to other properties they own (through QMI). The lockout has been on for 21 months and the readership of the paper has gone up, that says a lot.

    The sad reality is that things are changing ,and changing fast. The union is out in the cold, because there just isn’t as much need for them as they might think.

  3. Pingback: New contract proposal to Journal de Montréal workers – Fagstein

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