The Journal de Québec is a subsidiary of Sun Media Corporation, itself a subsidiary of Quebecor. The newspaper has been extremely profitable, with annual profits of $25 million in 2006, and with advertising sales continually on the rise over the past ten years. The newspaper’s unions agreed to a one-year extension of an agreement that would have expired on December 31, 2005, in order to deal with competition from the rival paper, Le Soleil, which was converting to a tabloid format. In the six months preceding the lockout, the newspaper experienced a growth rate of 2.5%, the highest of any daily paper in Canada. Prior to the dispute, the paper was published in runs of 104,000 copies on weekdays and 127,000 on Saturdays, making it the largest daily newspaper in Quebec City. The paper’s 280 employees are represented by four local sections of CUPE-FTQ (Office, Printers, Newsroom, and Advertising). In the 40-year history of the Journal, not one day had been lost because of a labour dispute.
The directors of the Journal hire 14 managers a few days before the deadline so that they will not be considered scabs in a dispute.
First negotiation meeting; the employer states its demands to the four Journal unions. These demands include additional responsibilities for the journalists, such as taking photos, filming and making sound recordings; the right for management to re-use Journal content in all Quebecor media (the so-called “10-lane highway”); and the right to copy-paste full pages from the Journal de Montréal into the Journal de Québec. The employer also wants to eliminate a number of office jobs by outsourcing, and by transferring the classified ads service to Kanata, Ontario, to eliminate some printers’ jobs by transferring tasks to editing, and in some cases, to impose considerably inferior working conditions.
December 11 and 12:
The employer meets with each of the four unions separately and sets out its demands.
The La Presse newspaper publishes an item on an email from Anne-Marie Cadieux, who was in charge of editorial content for Quebecor’s weekly newspapers. Dated November 17, this secret email was an attempt to recruit section heads to produce the Journal de Québec out of Toronto once the dispute began.
Sécurité Kolossal runs an ad in theJournal recruiting 200 security guards for “a labour dispute”!
The work contract for all Journal unions expires.
A phantom pressroom is set up on the 3rd floor of the Toronto Sun building in Toronto.
Five IT employees are suspended for indeterminate reasons. The following day, the management adds another demand: the complete subcontracting of the IT department. The suspensions later become dismissals and are contested with grievances.
The offers from management are rejected by 98% of office staff, by 99% of printing staff; and unanimously by the newsroom staff. The advertising sales representatives accept the proposal of the collective agreement by a slim majority of 54.5%.
The three local sections make a counter-offer. The employer does not respond.
Sécurité Kolossal posts guards in front of the Journal building.
In the early hours of the morning, riot barriers are erected in front of the Journal building.
At 9 a.m., Sun Media Corporation declares a lockout of office and newsroom staff. None of the unions had even asked members for a mandate to strike. In the late afternoon: the printing staff responds with a 97% vote in favour of a strike.
The locked-out and striking Journal de Québec staff take management by surprise by responding with an original pressure tactic: the launch of MédiaMatin Québec, a free 24-page daily paper published in a run of 40,000 from Monday to Friday. It is distributed at the city’s busiest intersections. With the scab version of the Journal printed in Mirabel and produced in Toronto, and its classified ads handled in the Ottawa region, MédiaMatin becomes the truly local paper. The “Montrealization” of the media and the erosion of local and regional information are hot topics for the citizens of Quebec City.
The Quebec Superior Court dismisses Quebecor’s application for a provisional injunction that would force our members to cease publication of MédiaMatin Québec.
CUPE national officers Paul Moist and Claude Généreux go on a late night caper to visit the MédiaMatin production room. They remind our brothers and sisters there that CUPE’s 560,000 members are behind them.
After a hearing on the merits, Quebecor’s application for an injunction is dismissed by the Superior Court, giving MédiaMatin Québec the green light to continue publication.
Jack Layton, Leader of the NPD, and Thomas Mulcair, his star candidate in Québec, support our fellow members by handing out MédiaMatin in the streets of Quebec City. Peter Murdoch, Vice-President of CEP, has done the same thing on May 18, as has Henri Massé, President of the FTQ, on May 9.
At a meeting in Montreal, the General Council of the FTQ vote unanimously to support our fellow members.
Distribution of the one-millionth copy of MédiaMatin Québec.
The representatives of the three unions transmit a verbal proposal to management through the conciliator.
Our fellow members denounce inaccurate statements made by management. On Saturday, May 19, the Journal de Québec proclaimed: “Journal record: 224 pages”, and on Saturday, June 2: “Journal record: 232 pages”. In fact, the actual record was 252 pages, established on February 4, 2006, well before the dispute!
Claude Généreux, national secretary-treasurer of CUPE, provides support for the striking and locked-out employees of the Journal by distributing MédiaMatin Québec in the streets.
Another setback for Quebecor in Superior Court. This time, the company applied for a provisional injunction forbidding union members to display a banner using the logo of the Journal de Québec, to which were added the phrases “At the Newsstand”, “Made in Toronto” and “Printed in Mirabel”. The banner is displayed on a trailer in the parking lot of CUPE’s Quebec City office. June 14:
In a hearing on the merits of the banner case in Superior Court, the judge accedes to Quebecor’s application, not on the grounds that the message is defamatory or vicious, but because the reproduction of the Journal de Québec logo would infringe Copyright Law. Two hours later, the banner is removed.
Our union members call for a one-day boycott of the Journal de Québec on June 21. The goal is to force the owners to resume negotiations, which were broken off in April despite repeated requests from the union side to resume talks. Quebecor does not budge from its position, despite major overtures from the union side.
Karine Gagnon, a Journal de Québec journalist, appears before Quebec’s Labour Relations Board when the Société immobilière du Québec wants to know the source of an article she wrote in November reporting on asbestos issues in certain government buildings. In a mean-spirited move, the Journal uses the lockout as a pretext for refusing to take part in her defense; CUPE and her local section have to hire a lawyer for her!
The one-day boycott of the Journal de Québec is a success: the story is covered by all the media in Quebec City starting in the early morning. The day’s 45,000 copies of MédiaMatin are snatched up like hotcakes.
Week of June 25:
The union of information workers at the Journal de Montréal launch a project: “Sponsor a worker in lockout or on strike” to offer financial and moral support for our fellow workers who were turned out into the street in April: a supportive exchange of photos, financial assistance, visits…
The 600 delegates at the general meeting of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) express their heart-felt support and launch a fund-raising campaign for the 252 members of the three CUPE-FTQ unions involved in the labour dispute.
The Journal de Québec erroneously announces the death of hockey player John Ferguson. Our workers are concerned that Quebecor––through its negligence and ill will in the dispute––is undermining the reputation and credibility of the Journal.
The dispute has lasted 11 weeks and the two-millionth copy of MédiaMatin Québec is distributed. Although proud of their accomplishment, our fellow workers would have preferred Quebecor to come to their senses and end the lockout.
Both parties are called to a meeting by the conciliator. Quebecor states that it was under no obligation to respond to the June 4 proposal as it was not presented in writing. The three unions once again suggest resuming negotiations, and, once again, Quebecor walks away from the table without even deigning to respond.
In the morning, the 252 Journal employees on strike or in lockout march through the streets of Quebec City, proudly displaying their new banner. It bears a deflated, distorted version of the Journal logo, reflecting the pathetic state of the paper now that it is being produced largely in Toronto and Kanata, and printed in Mirabel.
The CSQ announces that, at its convention in late June, it collected more than $25,000 for the Journal workers involved in the dispute.
That afternoon, the Sûreté du Québec arrive at the Journal offices. They have opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a sexual assault victim by the Journal despite a court order. The article in question was published on July 6; the name of the victim was also published on the Canoë website from the evening of July 5 until the next morning. Extremely upset at seeing her name revealed, the victim lodged a complaint with the Crown. Once again, the Journal workers fear for the newspaper’s reputation, which they spent 40 years to build.
The Métallos (FTQ) union lends $700,000 to the Journal employees involved in the conflict. This is added to some $200,000 collected in the past few weeks. “We’re in a position to hold on. The employer will not be able to wear us down. So the smartest move would be to resume negotiations,” states Denis Bolduc, president of the journalists’ union.