Media

Life on the picket line: who’s left at the Chronicle Herald?

The Signal spoke to Herald workers past and present

Christine Soucie Madill meets with the King’s Student Union about the rally on Jan. 23.   Jessica R. Durling

Today is the one year anniversary of the Chronicle Herald strike.

Employees left for the picket lines after the Chronicle Herald demanded wage cuts, severance caps and a reduction in the number of union positions.

A year ago Michael Gorman was a reporter for the Herald, but that changed when the strike happened. As he packed up the important items in his desk on Jan. 22, 2016, he considered the possibility that might be the last time he entered that building.

He says the atmosphere was surreal; he didn’t think the strike would last more than four or five months, enough time for the negotiations to be looked at with “cooler heads.”

After striking for about four months, Gorman got an offer to work at CBC. It was a tough decision, he says, but in the end the answer was obvious. A big part of Gorman’s identity is what he does, and he couldn’t stand picketing on the sidewalk. He needed to write, and he needed the money from doing it.

Now he’s a general assignment reporter for the CBC.

A year later, 56 picketers are left of the 61.

Bill Spurr is still on the picket line. He wanted to stay at the Herald until he’s 65. He is 53 now, and instead of being in the newsroom, he’s protesting outside it. Occasionally he’s approached by people to offer support and donations.

“I either need that job back, or I need the severance money that I’m owed,” says Spurr.

Spurr suggests that the strike is hard on working people, especially single parents or single-income families.

“You suck it up, you go into debt, you run up your line of credit and you hope for the end of the strike,” he says.

Some of the striking journalists have started their own publication, Local Xpress, where in the meantime they post their stories. Part of the Herald’s current demands for the strikers includes taking over the site.

“Many of us are very disillusioned with the ownership and the way the ownership has treated us in the last year, lots of people have hopes they can get some semblance of their life back at some stage,” says Spurr. “Other people are out there waiting for the severance money that they’re owed, that the company so far has refused to pay us.”

Another striker, Christine Soucie Madill, a former news editor, is skeptical about the Herald’s goals.

“I’m worried that their end game is to bust the union, so that when they do meet with us it’s just a smokescreen to show people they are sitting down with us,” says Madill. “Then there’s a part of me that hopes, eventually soon, they will set. We’ve given up a lot.”

Strikers are prepared for six confirmed rallies today.

“We’re not just going to have a rally in Halifax, we’re going to rally across the province,” said Gerry Whelan, who fights alongside the Herald striking newsroom employees. “It’s going to happen; rallies are going to happen province wide.”

The Herald responded to The Signal with several seconds of silence.

The Chronicle Herald strike has gone on for a year. See how it happened with this timeline by Robert Bartley-Crossley: