News  Journal de Montreal locked out

Employees reject contract proposal

Two-hundred-and-fifty-three employees were locked out of the Journal de Montréal last weekend after they rejected a new contract proposed by Quebecor Media, the conglomerate that owns the publication.

The workers are opposed to Quebecor’s failure to amend their contract to include an increase in the work week from 30 hours to 37.5 hours, adding a fifth day to the work week with no extra pay, as well as a 20 per cent reduction in benefits. Workers at the paper also want the management to reassign employees to multimedia work.

Their contract expired on December 31.

Quebecor has cut and altered its “business model.” These changes were necessary, the company said, due to the vast expansion of cheap Internet alternatives for news.

“Quebec is not immune to the turmoil in the paid-circulation newspaper industry, caused by factors such as the advent of Internet news sites and other free news sources, changing readership habits, the distribution of content in digital formats, the availability of regularly updated real-time information, and falling revenues from advertising and classifieds,” represntatives from Quebecor stated in a press release.

But these changes could threaten the quality of the paper and of the reporting, said Raynald Leblanc, president of the Syndicat des travailleurs de l’information du Journal de Montréal to the Montreal Gazette.

The popularity of web sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji have diverted much of the Classifieds content, a key source of revenue, away from newspapers, while blogs and other free new sites have taken away readership.

On Sunday, January 25 – the day after the lockout at the Journal – the Montreal Gazette found itself in a similar plight. Their management submitted a new contract that divided advertising against editorial and readers sales within the Montreal Newspaper Guild.

According to the Guild’s vice president, Irwin Block, the publisher of the Gazette said the jurisdiction was not good enough.

While the disputes within the Journal de Montréal and the Gazette continue to unfold, it is not clear that a solution will be reached anytime soon.

The last time a clash occurred between the Journal de Montréal’s management and the union in 2007, an agreement was not reached until 15 months after the lockout.