Nine-Day Strike Ends In Vancouver p. 8

By: George Garneau Settlements bring back newspapers after peaceful
strike over technology, pay, security, buyouts sp.

A NINE-DAY strike that shut Southam Inc.'s Vancouver Sun and Province, with combined daily circulation around 385,000, ended peacefully, with compromise five-year labor agreements that reduce staffing through buyouts and attrition while protecting job security and raising pay 6.65%.
Management said contracts with seven unions representing 1,200 employees, including pressroom staff and shift cuts, could clear the way for plans to invest more than $100 million (Canadian) in a new printing plant.
"It's difficult economic times . . . so under the circumstances it's the best deal possible," said Jan O'Brien, co-leader of the council of unions and president of the Newspaper Guild local.
Management and unions agreed to a settlement Nov. 10, clearing the way for the Province to resume publication Sunday, Nov. 13, followed by the Sun the next day.
The strike began the night of Nov. 1 when press operators walked off the job early in the press run ? in accordance with their strike deadline and after working without a contract for nearly a year.
The bargaining unit of 170 pressmen had been under pressure to concede on staffing and shifts as part of the company's plan to buy press equipment. The company said the union had refused to discuss staff cuts.
With presses silent, management the next day locked out more than 1,000 other workers, who joined picket lines.
In stark contrast to some violent U.S. newspaper strikes in recent years ? notably, those in San Francisco, New York and Chicago ? management in Vancouver did not try to publish, and no arrests or acts of violence were reported.
"I was struck with the respect with which both sides listened to each other," said company spokesman Don MacLachlan.
Negotiations over 14 months failed to yield settlements before the strike and were complicated by the need for new technology and a recession that, the company said put it in the red for three years.
One sticking point was the price of voluntary job buyouts. Management is trying to cut 200 employees from the payroll, in order to reverse three years of operating losses at Pacific Press, the publisher of both morning papers. It already has cut about 300 jobs in the past few years, including more than 100 jobs lost when the company sold off its trucking operations in 1993.
The new settlements protect workers from job loss, due to contracting or the sale of business segments over the contract period.
Retroactive to the expiration of the last contracts on Nov. 30, 1993, the pacts provide for 6.65% in pay hikes over five years and a $500 signing bonus. Effective last November, the annual wage hikes amount to 0%, 1%, 1.5%, 2% and 2%. A 1% cost-of-living increase applies in the last two years if inflation exceeds 3%.
Voluntary buyouts offer six weeks' pay per year of service, with a maximum of $150,000. Workers covered by minimum staffing provisions or lifetime job guarantees qualify for an extra $50,000.
Individual contracts call for reducing pressroom staffing by 35 to 40 jobs through buyouts and attrition but not until a new printing plant has been built and operating, which is expected in 24 to 30 months.
The Sun is looking to replace outmoded letterpress presses with new M.A.N.-Roland Colorman S offset units. The Province has a separate flexo plant.
Individual contracts provide, for example, that mailroom staff of 180 decline by 39.
The Newspaper Guild unit of 800 to 900 employees in news advertising and circulation will lose a category of circulation submanagers, whose jobs are being phased out.
The company's 140 printers have lifetime guarantees.
The company did not estimate the cost of the buyouts or its losses stemming from the strike. It said parent organization Southam Inc., Canada's largest newspaper company, was funding the buyouts.
Management also agreed to same-sex spousal benefits, up to a year's leave of absence for maternity, improved training, and assistance for telecommuters.
For its part, the Guild ratified the new contract by a 91% majority.


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