Halifax Chronicle Herald workers keep up pressure to end the strike

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It's been nearly two months since newsroom workers at the Halifax Chronicle Herald took up strike action.

Doughnuts, coffee and supermarket vouchers have been passed out at the picket line, as the unionized workers -- originally 61 in number -- protest major changes intended for their collective.

Frank Campbell, vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU), said a picketing schedule incorporating work for the union's online news website Local Xpress had worked well so far.

"Whoever wants to write can do a story and have one of our photographers take a photo.

"Some picket, some write and others do a mix."

The site was staffed on a volunteer-basis, Campbell said.

Members have also been vigilant about keeping tabs on businesses that continued to advertise with the Chronicle Herald.

"We've contacted all the advertisers and asked them to stop advertising while we're on strike," he said.

"For the ones that don't, we…go by their place of business with an information picket of four or five of us and pass out leaflets to passers-by," he said.

These businesses and any scab replacement workers at the Chronicle Herald were being identified by the HTU through its social media accounts.

And at the picket line, support from the local community, unions, businesses and journalists around Canada had been "unbelievable," Campbell said.

People had brought coffee, doughnuts, sandwiches and food vouchers down for picketers, he said.

Donations from unions and individuals had also rolled in.

"It's been a pretty good winter for picketing," Campbell said.

"We had some snow, some rain and some freezing weather, but mostly it has been more pleasant than we anticipated."

While no members had crossed the picket line since the strike began on January 23, three people had left the HTU, he said.

Two journalists had taken up jobs with other organizations, while another member had not been seen since the strike's first day.

According to the HTU, changes proposed by the paper's management include a reduction of editorial staff by about a third, cuts in salaries, longer hours for employees and removal of the gender parity clause from contracts.

Chronicle Herald management had not been in contact with the union since a few days into the strike, Campbell said.

"What we want to happen next is for management to come to us with some changes in their proposals.

"They've had proposals from the get-go in last October. Those proposals included 1,200 changes to our collective agreement. They haven't budged from that position since October."

Concessions offered by the union had also been flatly rejected, Campbell said.

Christian Laforce, HTU member and photographer, said the strike was unlikely to end anytime soon.

"People are very surprised that we're still on the line and that the company isn't negotiating with us.

"I believe it's going to drag on for quite some time."

Public support had been essential in keeping things positive, Laforce said.

"I find sometimes after a weekend when you've been off the line for a couple of days, you get to feeling a little bummed out and you don't really want to go to the picket line."

Seeing how much people and other members supported the HTU helped a lot, he said.

"Every honk lifts my heart a little bit.

"It's just good to be around our people, people passing by and honking horns, and folks stopping with gifts of food and grocery store vouchers."

"It's very nice and very unexpected," Laforce said.

Chronicle Herald publisher Sarah Dennis and her husband Mark Lever, company chief executive and president, did not respond to requests for comment.


Teuila Fuatai is a recent transplant to Canada from Auckland, New Zealand. She settled in Toronto in September following a five-month travel stint around the United States. In New Zealand, she worked as a general news reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ News Service for four years after studying accounting, communication and politics at the University of Otago. As a student, she had her own radio show on the local university station and wrote for the student magazine. She is rabble's labour beat reporter this year.

Photo: flickr/ Tony Webster


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