Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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Beating back the National Post’s unionization drive

Canadaland took a look at the tactics used by Postmedia management to narrowly defeat a campaign to unionize the National Post‘s newsroom.

From Canadaland (“How Postmedia Defeated A Union Drive At The National Post“):

The drive began in September 2017 at the notoriously small-c conservative newspaper, founded in 1998 by then-newspaper magnate Conrad Black — who fought a major battle at the Calgary Herald in the late 1990s after a union got a foothold there. Herald management would eventually win the eight-month strike.

So Postmedia had some experience with fighting unions.

It was said hell would freeze over before the N-P would ever unionized.

But after a months-long campaign, an overbearing response from management that included targeted buyouts and what a former staffer describes as “intimidation,” and a battle at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, hell has remained decidedly unfrozen. With a number of the union’s original organizers and supporters unable to cast ballots after taking buyouts, the Post’s unionization effort failed in late April by a vote of 31-32.

Indeed, any conflicted feelings that Post staff may have had in considering unionization were not at all apparent among management, whose roles both within the newsroom and as representatives of the Post impelled them to oppose it. They employed a mix of cajoling (such as with buyouts and raises), entreaties to preserve the paper’s uniquely collegial newsroom culture, office-wide memos decrying the havoc a union would wreak, and, according to CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon, one-on-one meetings between staff and management.

Former National Post staff describe a newsroom that, prior to the union drive, was besieged by frequent layoffs and buyouts, frustrated by changes to the newspaper’s cherished freewheeling spirit, and that felt betrayed by a particular one-two punch: first, the news that several top Postmedia executives had received enormous retention bonuses at a time of aggressive belt-tightening (after which many left regardless), and second, the March 2017 announcement that benefits and pensions would be curtailed significantly. (Postmedia did not return a request for comment on this story.)

Former employees identify three Financial Post reporters — Claire Brownell, Peter Kuitenbrouwer, and Drew Hasselback — as having been the core organizers of the effort to unionize the paper with the Canadian chapter of the Communications Workers of America. None are still working at the Post, and all three declined to speak for this story.

Wed, June 6 2018 » Main Page