Montreal, March 9, 2008 – It has been close to one year since office and editorial staff of Quebec City’s Journal de Québec (JdeQ), were locked-out by Quebecor/Sun Media Corporation. The locked-out workers were soon joined by JdeQ printers. Nearly 11 months later, on Wednesday March 12, 2008, the group will undertake a pan-Canadian tour to publicize, mobilize and gather support for the issues surrounding the conflict between the 250 workers at the Journal de Québec , members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and their employer Quebecor/Sun Media Corporation. On March 2, 2008, the Journal de Québec lockout became the longest running labour conflict at a French daily in Canada.
“There was no justification for this conflict in the first place. So, after almost a year without negotiating success we are announcing plans to demonstrate that these workers will not be broken by Quebecor. On Wednesday, we begin a cross-Canada tour to ensure that Canadians are fully aware of the repulsive tactics employed by Quebecor/Sun Media with its own employees at the Journal de Québec .
CUPE’s locked-out members will feel the full impact of millions of workers across Canada supporting them, by the end of this tour.” So spoke Paul Moist, Claude Généreux, Ken Georgetti and Michel Arsenault from the podium of a Montreal media conference this morning.
The four represent three million workers in Canada. Paul Moist is national president of CUPE, Claude Généreux is CUPE’s national secretary-treasurer, Ken Georgetti is president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Michel Arsenault is president of the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL).
Speaking with one voice the labour leaders denounced the sheer arrogance of Quebecor/Sun Media – the company that forced a lockout on its employees at a time when JdeQ was the best selling paper in its market. At the same time it was experiencing the best circulation increase among its class and size of daily newspapers, in Canada.
“Until April 22, 2007, the Journal de Québec had not lost one day of work due to labour conflict in its 40-year history. Furthermore, at the time of the lockout there was no threat of strike nor any preparation for a strike vote.”
“Today, 11 months later, no one from Quebecor/Sun Media will even grant a media interview to explain their position—that is arrogance.”
The Canadian Tour
The tour will begin in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on March 12 and end at the CLC convention during the last week of May. In between it will move to Calgary, Alberta on March 13. In April the tour moves to the Maritimes—April 3 to 5 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolfville, Nova Scotia from April 6 to 9, then to Vancouver from April 16 to 19, Brandon, Manitoba from April 24 to 26, back east to St. John’s Newfoundland for May 5 to 7, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for May 8-9 and Niagara Falls, Ontario for May 22 to 24.
In addition to raising awareness and mobilizing workers to speak out about the sad state of press freedom brought about by media convergence, the tour will, no doubt raise funds that will be added to the ongoing support.
Nine lockouts during the last six years
In Quebec alone, Quebecor/Sun Media has inflicted nine lockouts during the last six years. In the last fifteen years Quebecor/Sun Media has used lockouts on 12 different occasions.
History of the conflict
The office and editorial staff of the Journal de Québec have been locked-out since April 22, 2007. Prior to the lockout not one of the JdeQ unions had taken strike votes or started to mobilize members for the possibility. In solidarity with their colleagues and incensed that their employer Quebedor/Sun Media Corporation’s unjust treatment, printers at the JdeQ voted 97% in favour of striking.
First labour strife in 40 years of publishing
Until the lockout there had never been a labour dispute at the JdeQ since its founding in 1967. Furthermore all JdeQ employees had, just two years previously, agreed to concessions as a show of solidarity and partnership with their employer. This was done to support Quebecor/Sun Media’s battle when competitor Le Soleil began publishing as a tabloid.
When the conflict began JdeQ was returning a profit of about 25 million dollars and was the leading daily in the Quebec City market.
The growth was ongoing at the time of the lockout. According to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an organization that specializes in the evaluation of daily publication numbers throughout North America, the Journal de Québec had the largest circulation increase (Monday to Friday, for dailies with circulation greater than 100,000) in of Canada—2.5% for the six month-period ending on March 31, 2007.
The brute force of the lockout, notwithstanding, the profitability of the JdeQ suggests that Quebecor/Sun Media were practicing ‘economic terrorism’ on their own organization.
Job Action with a difference
No picket lines have gone up from the time of the lock out.
In fact since April 24, 2007 workers have been publishing and distributing 40,000 copies of their daily paper, MédiaMatinQuébec. Quebecor/Sun Media Corporation has subjected the daily to numerous court challenges in attempts to stop its publication.
None of these attempts have been successful.
Despite the conflict, the Journal de Québec continues to be published. It is usually printed at Mirabel not Quebec City.
The legal battles
In a first decision, rendered August 23, 2007, the Quebec Labour Board ordered the Journal de Québec to stop using the services of four replacement workers who were performing duties normally performed by the locked-out employees.
New complaints were launched last November 2007 against Quebecor/Sun Media, charging the use of illegal workers. In total, 17 complaints have been launched that touch 17 workers. Complaints were heard on January 14 and 28 and there will be further hearing dates on March 12 and 14.
Under oath, Serge Gosselin, declared that he does not find it ‘pertinent’ to know who the Canoe authors are who are providing articles for his daily where his own staff are locked-out.
On the other hand as recently as February 2008 the Journal de Québec, the Internet portal Canoe, and Canoe journalist Hubert Lapointe pleaded not-guilty to a tribunal, to criminal charges of having divulged the name of the victim of an aggravated sexual assault despite an order from Quebec’s criminal court. The issue returns to the tribunal on April 15. Note that Hubert Lapointe is one of the 17 individuals implicated the scabbing complaint
(English) Paul Moist, CUPE National President, 613-558-2873
(French) Claude Généreux, CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer, 514-884-5074
Robert Bellerose, CUPE Communications, 514-247-9266 />/>