It’s over: Journal workers approve contract by 64%

Locked-out workers of the Journal de Montreal have accepted – very reluctantly – an offer ending their two-year lockout.

After a 10-hour session inside a closed meeting at the Palais des Congrès, members of the Syndicat des travailleurs de l’information du Journal de Montréal voted 64.1% to approve a proposal by the mediator that will finally end the lockout that began on Jan. 24, 2009.

A back-to-work protocol still needs to be worked out. And approval is contingent on this being negotiated successfully. But it’s unlikely anything will stop this deal from getting final approval.

The deal, which lasts five years, will see the Journal hire back 62 workers (plus one temporary worker), which includes:

  • 24 journalists (12 in news, seven in sports and five in arts)
  • five deskers
  • four photographers
  • four graphic artists
  • an editorial cartoonist (assuming Marc Beaudet wants to return)
  • a statistician (plus a part-time or temporary one)
  • two quality control people
  • one “adjointe”
  • 10 people in classified (nine salespeople and one customer service agent)
  • 10 people in the business office, including two accountants

The rest will share a $20 million severance package, whose method of splitting is up to them (something expected to cause a lot of tension as they decide how to calculate how much each worker gets). For those of them lucky enough to get the choice, they’ll have two weeks to decide whether they want to rejoin their former newspaper.

Almost all of the Rue Frontenac personalities I talked to later Saturday night had already made up their minds: “No fucking way” are they going back to work for Quebecor, in the words of journalist Jessica Nadeau. Though some left open a slim possibility that they might accept a return, not wanting to close the door completely out of anger without thinking about it first, most of the core of Rue Frontenac made it abundantly clear that they are going to stay outside the grip of the Quebecor empire and try to make an independent publication of Rue Frontenac and

The contract is over 100 pages long and I’m just getting my first look at it. I’ll post more details in the days ahead, but suffice it to say this is a huge victory for Quebecor and a giant defeat for the union.

But at least some people will get some money out of it.

As you wait for more of my thoughts, you’ll find coverage of this story … well, just about anywhere:

Reaction and analysis is coming in from:

  • The FPJQ, which sees this as reinforcing its worries about media concentration in Quebec
  • Le Devoir’s Stéphane Baillargeon, who wonders if the managers who have been doing the work of journalists for the past two years won’t see themselves out of their jobs soon
  • Le Soleil, which looks at how this affects the Journal de Québec
  • The right, which sees this as a victory against the unions
  • Mauvais Oeil, which humorously looks at how readers of the Journal and the rest of the world see the conflict

And reaction from the journalists themselves:

13 thoughts on “It’s over: Journal workers approve contract by 64%

  1. Dominic Fugère

    The name is Forté, not Fortin or Forin but the worse part is that he is not by anystretch the President of the FNC (he is only a union counselor)… But then who is surprised that the agency that moves videos about «bombes a la boucane» would make that type of a crucial mistak.

  2. Alex H

    Just off the top, this looks remarkably like the same contract they turned down a few months ago. 75% of the original workers lose their jobs, and Quebecor gets what it really wanted all along. It seems like 2 years wasted to end up where they started.

    1. Heather H

      The previous proposal required not only the shut-down of Rue Frontenac, but also prevented laid-off employees from working for other media organisations for up to a year!

      Hence the 83% rejection rate.

      1. Alex H

        Yeah, now they don’t have to shut down RF, they just have to turn it into a co-op, which potentially will be the kiss of death anyway. I suspect most of the changed votes came from older workers who will share in the 20 million payout, essentially easing them into retirement with less problems.

        It’s the best deal possible for the workers, and an even better deal for Quebecor. The next step in the evolution of media has started.

  3. wkh

    They were *never* going to get anything resembling what they wanted. I am frankly surprised Quebecor offered anything. Business was fine, they had no need for the workers, none of their readers gave two shits about the strike, in fact most of them probably supported Quebecor… Honestly I’m more curious about the angle of why did Quebecor settle? What was in it for them?

    And lest anyone misconstrue my comment, I am a full supporter of unions. Sadly Quebec’s labour legislation is woefully lacking when it comes to media and 21st century reality.

    1. mike

      Is simple: The money is the “apple of Discord”. Divide et impera. Rue Frontenac will become a collateral damage and will cease to exist.

  4. Jimmy Jack

    Jeez, the whole thing was a gigantic waste of time and a whole whack of money. I guess the, eh,”workers?”, finally realized the world had carried on without them without so much as giving them a wink or a nod.

  5. Vahan

    In response to Whk, I suppose the naming rights to an arena may have pushed Videocor to offering the deal. It us called putting a shine on the turd they have themselves in. Everyone is happy and smiling while shaking hands for the cameras and their big fancy restaurant steak dinners. Pats on the backs and three piece suits for everyone involved. Make sure it covers the pointy tail coming out your asses Cor.

  6. Karine

    Humm, looks like I need to double check my Google feed, none of the recent posts have appeared in it.

    As for the end of the lock out, it’s time for the Quebec government to bring the anti-scab legislation to the 21st century. And I want to be a fly in the room at their next office Christmas party with Martineau.

  7. Jimmy Jack

    Update anti scab legislation? Thats funny. Like anyone should own a job. Quebec is such a complete economic joke. Get used to being a failed state in the medium term future.

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