Newspaper publisher Postmedia Network Canada Corp. launched an experiment on Wednesday to ask readers to pay for content on its websites.
The GreatWhig.ca team launched the campaign at a news conference in Kingston this morning. From left: Martin O’Hanlon, project initiator and CWA Canada deputy director;Kingston writer Jamie Swift; GreatWhig.ca project manager Alec Ross; CWA Canada Director Arnold Amber; and Paul Schliesmann, Whig-Standard reporter and vice-president of the Kingston Typographical Union.
It’s a project the size and likes of which CWA Canada has never before undertaken. The mission? To enjoin an entire community in a campaign to pressure a corporate media giant to restore the quality of its daily newspaper.
An advertising blitz that heralds the launch today of the ambitious multi-media campaign is sure to make the Kingston Whig-Standard the talk of the town, which some time ago dubbed its once highly regarded publication the “Sub” Standard. The message to “Make It Great!” will emanate from billboards, transit ads, radio spots, flyers, the GreatWhig.ca website and a Facebook fan page.
Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Péladeau is about to get an earful from disgruntled readers and advertisers who have lamented the newspaper’s rapid decline under his stewardship. They will be sending email messages and signing a petition that calls on Quebecor to “devote the appropriate resources to the Whig-Standard so that Kingston can once again have a newspaper worthy of our great city.”
Martin O’Hanlon, deputy director of CWA Canada, initiated the project last fall and has overseen its development over the past six months. The executive of the Kingston Typographical Union (KTU), which represents Whig employees, heartily endorsed the plan and connected its architects with community leaders and activists who were quick to embrace the campaign.
“This is about fighting the good fight for quality local news and jobs. It’s not about union versus management; it’s about doing what’s best for everyone,” says O’Hanlon.
“We want to convince Quebecor that investing properly in its newspapers and keeping jobs in the community is good for readers, employees, democracy — and profits.”
Paul Schliesmann, a veteran reporter at the newspaper and vice-president of the KTU, says this is a last-ditch effort: “This project gives me the only hope I have left for the Whig-Standard.”
As the campaign material notes, the Whig-Standard used to be one of Canada’s best small-city newspapers. It won national awards for investigative reporting, offered in-depth coverage of Kingston issues and provided a balanced forum for discussion of matters of local and national importance.
In recent years, and particularly under Quebecor ownership, the qualities that once made the Whig-Standard a source of pride for Kingston have dramatically declined. Readers and advertisers keenly feel the loss.
Petitioners, whose message will go to both Péladeau and Ron Laurin, the newspaper’s publisher, will “request that Quebecor devote the appropriate resources to the Whig-Standard so that Kingston can once again have a newspaper worthy of our great city.”
Alec Ross, a long-time activist in Kingston who cares passionately about the Whig’s status, is co-ordinating the campaign for CWA Canada. A local company was contracted to design and construct the website, which features video testimonials from people in the community who describe the impact of Quebecor’s corporate decisions.
Among those weighing in are Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, Richard Kizell, chair of the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, professors, business people, politicians, writers and former Whig reporters.
“Generally,” says Ross, “I chose the video subjects because they are thoughtful, engaged and articulate Whig readers. We have a lot of support from prominent Kingstonians who totally sympathize with the cause, but who — for various reasons — declined to do a video.”
Lawrence Scanlan, who used to work at the Whig, recounts the halcyon days and expresses his sadness for what has been lost. He’s one of many dedicated journalists who recognize that a once proud profession has been undermined by a corporate ownership more interested in proselytizing a political ideology than upholding the public’s interest, a newspaper’s traditional role.
Indeed, Quebecor’s Sun Media has spread its right-wing tentacles into its newspapers and broadcast outlets to espouse its agenda and silence voices of opposition. The chain’s newspapers are filled with articles that spread the gospel and barely reflect the communities they purport to cover.
Centralizing of functions such as subscription services and advertising has eliminated scores of jobs at Sun Media publications and disconnected the publications from the communities they are supposed to serve.
For interviews or more information, contact Martin O’Hanlon (email / 613-867-5090) or Alec Ross (email / 613-572-3182).
To: CWA/SCA Canada Locals From: National Elections Committee
Re: Campaign for National Director, CWA/SCA Canada Dear Local Officials,
You are being officially notified of the election for the position of National Director of CWA/SCA Canada.
Under election rules approved by the National Representative Council, the campaign period starts immediately and ends at 12 noon EDT on Thursday, June 2. The voting period starts at 12:01 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 2, and ends at the close of business in the national office in Ottawa on Thursday, June 23.
Votes will be collected by the National Elections Committee and counted on June 24-26.
During the campaign period, union funds, staff and other resources shall not be used in support of any particular candidate. Locals must provide equal treatment to both candidates in terms of making websites, bulletin boards, etc., available for election material. For example, if a local decides to create an area on its website for posting of messages of support, it must communicate that to both candidates.
The email addresses for the candidates are:
Ron Carroll email@example.com
Martin O’Hanlon firstname.lastname@example.org
The election will be conducted by mail except for those locals that indicated they would conduct balloting in-plant before the deadline, which was at 12 noon EDT today.
If you have any questions about the rules for the campaign, please contact the National Elections Committee through the national office in Ottawa:
CWA/SCA Canada Unit 7B – 1050 Baxter Road Ottawa, ON K2C 3P1 email@example.com 613-820-9777 1-877-486-4292 Fax 613-820-8188
ELECT MARTIN O’HANLON: DIRECTOR, CWA/SCA CANADA
Since January, we have launched some of the most exciting projects in our history. With the continuing challenges ahead, it’s critical that we have an innovative, common-sense leader with the experience and skills necessary to run a complex union and keep us moving forward.
As Deputy Director of the union for the last seven years, a national and local leader for two decades, and a founding leader of the union in 1995, I know the initiatives we have in place and I have a clear vision for the future.
With the retirement of Arnold Amber, I’m running for the position of Director and I humbly ask for your support so that together, we can build the most dynamic, progressive union in the country.
My guiding principle as a leader is simple: do what’s best for the members. I have always served in a volunteer capacity, balancing union duties with long work hours and family life. My full-time job is parliamentary editor for The Canadian Press in Ottawa, directing a team of some of the finest political journalists in Canada.
A few months back, I proposed and began developing a pilot project for Kingston – a community-based, public-awareness campaign aimed at pressuring Quebecor to improve local news coverage and protect local jobs at the Whig-Standard. After countless meetings, conference calls and emails, I’m thrilled to say the project launched today and is already drawing a lot of attention. The plan is to use what we’ve learned from Kingston and take the campaign to other communities.
As we work proactively to defend journalism and save jobs, it’s also important that we help members when we lose the battle to protect them from layoffs. I’m proud to have initiated the education/training subsidy which has aided many of our laid-off colleagues with the cost of study courses and retraining. It does a little bit to help them get back on their feet, and – more importantly – it shows that we care.
While I’ve mentioned two of my recent initiatives, other leaders have put forward great ideas and most of our projects are team efforts. I have collaborated on or strongly backed other key developments, including the hiring of a full-time organizing director, and a first-of-its-kind alliance with an agency that represents freelance journalists.
Here are some priorities I would like to move forward with in the next year:
* Organizing: Revitalize our organizing program and pour in as many resources as possible to grow the union, bring the benefits of unionism to more workers, and reinvigorate the labour movement.
* New activists/leaders: Quickly establish a strategy for using education, training and other means to get more members involved (especially younger ones) and build the next generation of leadership.
* Education: Establish a formal education program on the national level with semi-annual education/training seminars or courses.
* Communication: Build on recent efforts to improve the flow of union information to members. Improve external communications to establish CWA/SCA Canada as the "Go-To" union for labour issues.
* Public Broadcasting: The recent election of the majority federal Conservative government raises the serious possibility of cuts to CBC funding. A Tory government in Ontario could be equally threatening to TVO. I passionately believe in the importance of public broadcasting and will work with the CMG leadership on implementing a plan as soon as possible to head off any cuts.
* Diversity: Work with Diversity v.p. Ing Wong-Ward and Locals to develop a plan to reach out better to members and prospective members from diverse backgrounds to make the union inclusive and more representative of our membership.
* The Way Ahead: Renew and reinvigorate "The Way Ahead" project – the blueprint for growing the union – which has spawned some of our most innovative initiatives.
* Balanced budgets: Work with the Finance and Executive committees to ensure a balanced budget each year.
Thanks to all who have written and phoned with kind words and expressions of support. Please don’t hesitate to call or email if you have any questions or just want to chat. You can also check out my Facebook page: Elect Martin O’Hanlon For Director CWA/SCA Canada.
All the best,
For the first time in this union’s history, the 9,000 members of CWA/SCA Canada have a choice and a voice.
In the past, our director was determined by the National Representative Council, and the current director, Arnold Amber, has held the post since 1995. Individual members had no say in choosing its best representative.
With the communication industry facing rapid change and complex challenges as the digital world becomes more intrenched in everyone’s life and businesses exploit new technologies to reduce costs and jobs,, now, more than ever, it is important that members choose their director.
I was born with ink in my veins as my father’s career in newspapers spanned nearly 70 years. I remember the smell of the old letterset presses and the clatter of hot-metal Linotype machines as a child growing up. At 12, I became a paperboy, following that a stint as a photographer for the student newspaper in high school. With the newspaper bug coursing through my blood I went on to journalism and print school in Toronto. Some of my studies included some radio and TV courses. After school I kicked off my career in journalism and have since worked as a reporter, photographer and editor.
For nearly 25 years I have worked as a copy editor at the Montreal Gazette in every editorial department; news, sports, business, life and entertainment. I have developed a solid background in marketing, advertising and public relations during my tenure. To broaden my skills, I took a year leave of absence from the Gazette taking over as the editor of a small daily newspaper managing and supervising a staff of 20.
While relatively new to the union ranks as an executive officer (secretary) for the Montreal Newspaper Guild for the past three years, I have deeply involved myself in all aspects of the Guild, going to CWA training sessions, attending the last two National Representative Councils as a delegate, the annual Communications Workers of America Convention in Washington last July and the Newspaper Guild-CWA Sector Conference in Orlando in February. I also was part of the Bargaining Committee during three years of difficult and contentious bargaining for a new contract at The Gazette that was ratified last month. I am a devoted, hard-working problem-solver who likes to get things done. I am not into playing politics, but rather into changing the political arena.
Why do I want your vote for director of the CWA-SCA Canada? Over the past 40 years, I have watched the industry adopt new technology and had to learn to adapt right along with everyone else. Unfortunately, what was once family-owned enterprises that were devoted to quality journalism were absorbed by corporate conglomerates interested only in the next quarterly earnings report and burdened with huge debt loads because of more and more acquisitions. Where does that leave us as a union and employees… on the outside looking in! Despite the prophets of doom and gloom who predict the imminent demise of traditional media as the digital world takes over, print and broadcasting remain the breadwinners, generating most of the content and revenues. Owners have devoted enormous resources to the Internet, but they still struggle to produce more than 10 per cent of their revenue from digital.
Sure, the recession knocked the stuffing out of advertising, but it is recovering, as are profits. Media chains in Canada continued to make money even in the depths of the recession, and with brutal cost-cutting and job losses they are raking in even more dough. Unions and employees have been fighting a rear-guard action to maintain their hard-fought gains in the face of this corporate onslaught.
But with owners now enjoying healthy balance sheets and, apparently, the bloodletting somewhat staunched, we as a union must begin thinking about how we can not only improve the lot of those lucky enough to still be working in the industry, but what we can do to help the employer restore the quality and respect that was so easily jettisoned in the name of so-called survival.
For retired members and current members who have been contributing to their pension plans for years and now worry if those benefits will continue to be paid or at a reduced level, we must pressure employers to protect our futures.
We also are not immune to dollars and sense. Our budgets are under severe strain because of job losses and the associated reductions of dues. CWA-SCA Canada must attack this problem immediately by a combination of finding new revenue through organizing new members, spending existing funds wisely and productively, and becoming more innovative.
The communications learning curve has become so steep that employers are years behind: just ask your kids. It’s evident that even the Internet is now passé, replaced by social media and smart phones. We as a union movement must surf the new wave or face getting swamped like our employers. If we don’t join the future, we’ll only be another footnote in history along with the telegraph, dial phones and letter-writing.
It’s now time for a new face to occupy an office in Ottawa as your director. I am asking you for your support in this endeavour. I also plan on relocating to Ottawa if elected.
This business has been my life, my career and my world, and it’s yours, too.
Secretary, Montreal Newspaper Guild
Please feel free to call or email if you would like to talk about your concerns.
Windsor Typographical Union | CWA Canada Local 30553
A tentative deal reached between three unions and the Windsor Star mere minutes ahead of a Friday midnight strike deadline scored all-around thumbs up in ratification votes yesterday.
The three-year collective agreement mostly preserves an enviable early-retirement provision that new owner Postmedia Network wanted to abolish. It was that stance at the outset of talks early in the new year, along with what amounted to a proposed wage freeze, that galvanized 230 union members and led to a 96-per-cent strike vote in late March.
Brian Beaumont, vice-president of the Windsor Typographical Union (WTU) and chair of its bargaining committee, says these were a “tough set of negotiations given the economic times.” Postmedia, which last year purchased newspaper assets from a virtually bankrupt Canwest, made it clear “it did not want to move forward with any wage increases.”
In the end, he says, “We got the best deal possible and that’s what we told our members (on Sunday).”
The WTU, with 72 workers in the mailroom; the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents staff in the newsroom, advertising and business office; and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers (pressroom) voted 100, 93 and 100 per cent respectively to ratify the contract that contains modest wage increases.
David Esposti, the CWA Canada staff representative who assisted the WTU in the joint-council negotiations, says the 60 part-time hopper feeders are the big winners. While all full-time workers get a $1,000 lump sum in lieu of a first-year increase (followed by 1.0 per cent in year two and 1.5 per cent in the third year), they get a lump sum of $500 plus a one-per-cent wage increase in the first year.
The other major victory for the part-timers, says Esposti, is that they retain their guaranteed minimum shift of four hours, which Postmedia wanted to trim to three, amounting to a 25-per-cent pay cut.
“By the end of this three-year contract,” he says, “WTU members will be making more than $17 an hour.”
Esposti says the “elephant in the room” during the four days of mediation last week was the early retirement provision, which allows employees qualified to retire at age 60 to receive half pay, full benefits and pension contributions until age 65.
Under the new arrangement, which is now in effect for all future contracts until existing employees have exercised their rights, retirees will receive 45 per cent pay and full benefits for four years and pension contributions for two years.
In addition, says Esposti, the employer-funded pension plan contributions increase by 25 cents in year two and a similar amount in year three, bringing the total to $15 per shift.
All three unions saw gains, including a night-shift premium that goes from $14.50 to $15 in year two; vision care increases $25 to $275 every two years; and sons- and daughters-in-law are now included as immediate family for three-day bereavement leave entitlement.
Esposti says there were several contract language changes that benefitted the WTU and one that retained the union’s jurisdiction but gave the employer a break on overtime rules.
The last two collective agreements at the Windsor Star were achieved within minutes either side of a strike/lockout deadline. This agreement will expire at the end of 2013.