There will be four more years of labour peace at the Journal de Québec.
Sun Media announced on Friday that it has reached labour deals with three unions at the Quebec City newspaper, representing printing, office and editorial workers, each lasting four years.
The press release doesn’t give details, but FM93, which reported on the deals on Thursday, says the employees made some serious concessions, including virtually eliminating the four-day work week for those who still had it, reducing compensation for personal car use on the job, and reducing the workforce by 10-15 jobs (out of a total of 175) through voluntary departures.
Nevertheless, the deal was met with strong support from the unions, with 85% support from editorial and even higher from the other two. The fact that no one will be forced out of jobs for another four years seems to be the big selling point.
Financially, the SCFP union reports there will be pay increases, but only starting in 2015. After a freeze for next year, pay will go up 1% in 2015, 1.5% in 2016 and 1.5% in 2017. That’s about in line with inflation over the past year, which has been around 1%.
More telling is the union negotiator’s statement that talks “progressed with mutual respect” and that “the union takes its place as a partner in the company.”
The last labour deal at the JdeQ was reached after a long bitter lockout in 2007-08, that saw employees producing their own newspaper as a pressure tactic, and the employer making increased use of external sources of news. That lockout set the stage for a much bigger one at the Journal de Montréal in 2009, in which both sides stepped up their game. It also prompted a legal review over the legality of replacement workers working remotely, a battle the union ultimately lost.
The 2008 JdeQ labour deal, reached as the U.S. financial crisis was turning into a global recession, had pay increases of 2.5% a year.
At the end of August, Quebecor-owned Videotron reached a deal with 800 employees in eastern Quebec and the Saguenay. Could this be a sign that Quebecor’s lockout strategy is coming to an end?
UPDATE: The story published in the Journal de Québec about its own labour deal just republishes word-for-word Quebecor’s press release (with some style changes) and then tacks on a quote from the union’s press release. It doesn’t mention that the quotes are from press releases.
As soon as you said that giving up the “4 day work week” was a major concession I knew sort of how the rest of the story would go.
Yes, it would appear that Quebecor’s lockout strategy is ending, because it was entirely successful in getting the unions to come to the table and negotiate in good faith, with an understanding that the overwhelming perks of the fat era of print media are just not going to work out if the intend to have any future together.
The high approval rate by union members for this contract would seem to be more a clear understanding that they can be locked out for years without it hurting management, and that any threat of a strike on their behalf would be self-defeating. Signing a barely inflation agreement with concessions and a near 10% reduction in workers would be seen as throwing the white flag almost anywhere else.