Media

Chronicle Herald strike: What seniority means to both sides

Layoff protection for senior staff continues to remain divisive issue

 

HTU president Ingrid Bulmer (left) and other union members Nov. 7
Union members on the picket line on Nov. 7.   John Sandham

Ian Scott, lead strike negotiator for the Chronicle Herald, is rejecting striking workers’ claims the company is trying to remove job security for its senior reporting staff.

“(It’s) quite the opposite,” said Scott, in an interview on Friday.

The media company and its unionized employees have been locked in a contract dispute since January when members of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU), including reporters, editors and photographers, went on strike.

The claim regarding job security came from from the president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Canada, Martin O’Hanlon. The HTU is a local chapter of CWA Canada.

“(The Chronicle Herald) continues to demand unreasonable, non-monetary concessions, including the elimination of seniority as a key factor in layoffs, meaning they could fire anyone for any reason regardless of years of dedicated, loyal service,” said O’Hanlon in a Nov. 9 news release. “In contrast, the union has proposed common-sense language: that layoffs follow seniority, provided the worker has the skills to do the job.”

However, Scott said the company has included seniority provisions in its proposed agreements. The disagreement, he said, was on “how much weight to give it?” The Herald wants seniority to be a “secondary” consideration when laying off employees, whereas the union wants it to be the “primary” consideration.

In the most recent collective agreement proposed by the Chronicle Herald, the article related to job security stipulates “employees will be dismissed … on the basis of the reverse seniority order provided the skills, ability and qualifications of the employees concerned are relatively equal.”

However, the agreement also demands that both the company and the union agree that “(these) are competition clauses that prioritize skills, abilities, and qualifications over seniority.”

The HTU claims the Chronicle Herald has not negotiated in good faith and has not made reasonable offers in order to reach an agreement. The union filed an unfair labour complaint on Nov. 14 with the Nova Scotia Labour Board.

If the labour board believes either party is not working toward resolving their dispute, as required by law under the Trade Union Act, it has the power to order either side to change their behaviour.