“A conflict created entirely by Quebecor”
This morning at 9 a.m., management at Sun Media Corporation (Quebecor) locked out its employees at the Journal de Québec, Quebec City’s number-one daily paper. The lock-out affects editors, journalists, photographers as well as office staff. It occurs at a time when none of the unions had asked members for a strike mandate.
On behalf of the three unions negotiating with the Journal, Denis Bolduc said “absolutely nothing” can justify this brutal move. “The Journal de Québec is Quebecor’s goldmine. The profits are enormous. With fewer staff than its competition, Le Soleil, and constantly increasing circulation, the Journal is number one. But that’s not good enough for Quebecor.” Bolduc added that “Quebecor will be held responsible for its actions which end 40 years of harmonious relations with its employees.”
Says Bolduc, “the lock-out at the Journal de Québec is a conflict created by Quebecor. With the lockout, they’ve shown that everything they’ve done since fall has been designed to create conflict.” As proof, the unions offer the following troubling facts:
- hiring of 14 new staff in September
- an email sent out by Quebecor in November recruiting journalists “ready to move to Toronto for the duration this crisis”;
- the fact that Quebecor fired Anne-Marie Cadieux, author of this embarrassing email;
- establishment of a news room on the third floor of the Toronto Sun;
- special training given to Journal executives on Quark page-layout software;
- the establishment of a classified ads department in Kanata, Ontario;
- addition of cameras, last winter, at the Journal offices;
- changing the locks and access control system at the Béchard Avenue building;
- a notice in the December 15 issue of the Journal, in which the company Sécurité Kolossal advertised for no fewer than 200 security guards in anticipation of a labour conflict in Quebec City. Pure coincidence? In January, this company was hired to install new cameras at the Journal; and since April 12, security guards from this same company have been posted at the entrance to the Journal building.
- the suspension of five IT employees on January 23. While remaining vague about the reasons for these suspensions, the following day, management added to its demands the complete subcontracting of the IT department. (These suspensions later became dismissals and grievances were filed.)
Denis Bolduc adds that, “the lock-out is even more brutal when you consider that the members at the Journal were not threatening to strike, that they had never been on strike, and that not one day of work had been lost since the paper opened in 1967.”
Last year, the 280 union members at the Journal agreed to extend their collective agreement by one year to deal with competition from Le Soleil, which was switching to a tabloid format.
Four unions - all affiliated to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-FTQ) - represent some 280 employees (Office, Printers, Newsroom, and Advertising Representatives) at the Journal de Québec, a Sun Media Corporation division. By 54.5% majority, only the advertising representatives’ union has reached an agreement with the employer. With 104,000 copies published on weekdays and 127,000 on Saturdays, the Journal de Québec is the largest daily newspaper in Quebec City.
CUPE represents 7,000 other employees in the communications sector in Quebec and is present in other sectors, including health and social services, universities, education, urban and air transport, Quebec government corporations and public agencies, hydroelectric power, and municipalities. With nearly 100,000 members, CUPE is the largest affiliate of the FTQ.