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Journal de Montréal workers fight for contract

Abating fears of a lockout after two months of stalled talks, employees of the Journal de Montréal – represented by the the Syndicat des travailleurs de l’information du Journal de Montréal (STIJM) – began a new round of moderated negotiations Wednesday with Quebecor Media, the publication’s parent company.

The moderator has been appointed by the Quebec Ministry of Labour, following an official complaint made by the union.

For employees who currently work 30 hours a week, Quebecor Media hopes to increase the number to 37 without increasing pay, while the STIJM is vying for an annual 2.5 per cent pay increase and extra vacation pay.

Isabelle Dessurault, Vice-President of Public Affairs at Quebecor Media, said a new business model is needed. She saw the change in hours less as wage cutting and more as saving valuable money.

“The newspaper industry was, in the eighties and early nineties, the media with a capital T. This is not the case anymore. We are facing changing readership habits,” Dessurault said. “We need to invest more money to make sure that we still have our place in the media environment.”

However, the union’s secretary, Pascal Filotto, believed that the challenges Journal de Montréal faces as a part of the newspaper industry were being overused to justify fewer employee benefits. His union sees the potential change as a 20-25 per cent wage cut.

“The situation with French papers in Quebec is not the same as in the U.S. or Canada. The readership is pretty stable as far as the printed editions,” Filotto said. “We understand that the business is at a crossroads, but it felt from the beginning that they were trying to use the ‘world context’ [of journalism] to take everything we had away.”

The contract between the STIJM and management was supposed to be renewed by the end of last month, as the old one expires at the end of this month. Although negotiations regarding contract renewal began on October 28, they were halted on November 18.

Both groups have agreed to keep a tight lip on any progress until their negotiations conclude on January 23.

– Jeff Bishku-Aykul