It’s been a while since we had a good old-fashioned newspaper labour conflict in this country.
On Friday night, the Halifax Chronicle Herald entered one as the union and its 61 workers went on strike to avoid severe cuts the company said it would impose. This despite the fact that the union had offered concessions — including wage decreases — at the bargaining table.
And today, as union members walked the picket lines and encouraged people to unsubscribe to the paper and boycott its advertisers, 18 of its members received layoff notices, and seven of them additional offers to return to work in non-union positions with different working conditions. (The CEO explains in this memo sent to those who weren’t laid off.)
The Herald plans to continue publishing, using managers, but also some more creative ways of getting around the union. It has an agreement with Brunswick News to provide copy that might appeal to a Nova Scotia audience, and it has reportedly approached students and others to act as freelancers during the strike.
The Halifax Typographical Union is active on its Twitter account, with bitter comments about the newspaper’s management. The newspaper also got a bit snippy today:
— The Chronicle Herald (@chronicleherald) January 23, 2016
— HTU (@HTU_official) January 23, 2016
And Herald president and CEO Mark Lever has been responding to some critics on Twitter, though judging from the replies he’s getting he’s not a very popular person.
— Mark Lever (@CH_MLever) January 23, 2016
On the CH website, they’ve so far played it safe and posted Canadian Press coverage of the strike, which is a good practice in general for media reporting on themselves. (It might help if they posted that story anywhere on their homepage.)
You only need to look at the Journal de Québec and Journal de Montréal lockouts to know that they can lead to a lot of resentment. Even if a deal is reached here, the Chronicle Herald may never be the same.
UPDATE (Jan. 24): The layoff notices have been suspended.
Not just the big guys
One thing I should note about this: The Halifax Chronicle Herald is an independent newspaper. (It’s described as Canada’s largest independent daily, which is true only if you ignore the Globe and Mail, La Presse and the Winnipeg Free Press.)
Speaking of which, the Nanaimo Daily News, owned by the Black Press, just announced it’s shutting down next week.