Labor Negotiations To Begin In Victoria

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(AP) Management of the Victoria Times Colonist and unions representing the newspaper will begin negotiations next Tuesday, four weeks after a strike halted publication.

The decision was made Friday when both sides met with a mediator for the first time since the labor dispute started Sept. 3.

Both Chris Carolan, a spokesman for the Victoria Joint Council of Newspaper Unions, one of three unions that represent 275 workers, and Times Colonist Editor Andrew Phillips welcomed the news.

“Tuesday morning will be critical,” Carolan said. “We’ll see how far we go.”

“We’re hoping for a quick resolution to the dispute,” Phillips said.

The Times Colonist has a daily circulation of about 75,000 and is owned by CanWest Global Communications Inc. The strike was called after five months of contract negotiations.

CanWest offered a four-year contract with wage increases of 1.5% Jan. 1, 2003, and 2% effective Jan. 1 in each of the next two years. The top rate for a reporter would go to C$1,233.13 a week (US$788.21).

Carolan said the biggest issues in the dispute are company demands to reduce benefits to part-time workers, roll back sick-pay benefits, introduce unlimited use of freelance writers, reduce the number of unionized district managers, and reduce pay for mailers who stuff ad supplements in newspapers.

The strike is the first major labor dispute at the Times Colonist since a six-month walkout that began in December 1973.

The strike is the second newspaper labor dispute this year for CanWest, the television network that acquired the Southam chain of newspapers in 2000. The Vancouver Sun and The Province, also in Vancouver, were shut down for about three weeks in July.

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