Sunday, 28 January 2007

Rolf Rimstad & SONG

Brad Honywill, the Toronto Sun's former Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild unit chair, says in an e-mail another casualty of Quebecor's cutbacks was Rolf Rimstad.

We had heard the 30-year staffer, brother of the late Sun legend Paul Rimstead and writer Diane Rimstead, was fighting for his job, but his departure in June wasn't reported.

But then Sun Media has been negligent in reporting most of the resignations and layoffs in the past year. Numerous vets gone - and forgotten.

Rolf may be gone, but not forgotten by SONG. An arbiter's decision is pending. (See Brad's comments below.)

Rolf, who chose to use the original spelling of the Rimstad family name, never coasted on his brother's reputation, before or after Paul's death in 1987. He was a dedicated sports desk editor with little time for idle banter. He was a worker.

Good luck Rolf. As another victim of the cutbacks, you are in good company.

Meanwhile, Brad Honywill has updated us on Friday's byline protest, Thursday's wearing of black in the newsroom and SONG activities and accomplishments since its arrival in 2003.

Says Brad:

"The purpose of the byline strike was to protest the continuing downsizing of the newsroom by Quebecor and to honour those people who worked their last day on Thursday.

Twelve people were laid off on Thursday at the end of their eight-week notice period. Another four people took buyouts to save four jobs. We said good-bye to all of them at a party at Betty's on Thursday evening. Also to protest the downsizing, virtually all editorial staff wore black to work on Thursday.

We are now down to about 120 people in the newsroom, from 200 at the peak prior to Quebecor's purchase in 1998. Staff is horribly demoralized, both because of the loss of fellow workers and because of what most of us see as a mindless drive toward the destruction of the paper we love and helped to build.

SONG, or CEP Local 87-M, has taken a number of steps to combat the downsizings.

First, we launched the Save Our Sun campaign, encouraging members to wear t-shirts with the slogan to work and to display signs with a similar message.

Second, we initiated a common employer application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board which, if successful, will result in Ottawa, Toronto and London, plus the new "corporate" positions, all being in one bargaining unit and negotiating as a single team, just as the company negotiates as a single entity.

Third, we have been very successful in organizing new units, which increase the bargaining power of the Toronto Sun editorial unit, namely the editorial department at the Ottawa Sun, the pre-press department at the Toronto Sun and all departments at the London Free Press.

Fourth, we have grieved a number of actions that the company has taken which threaten the jobs of the people remaining at the Sun.

In addition to fighting the downsizing as much as we can through grievances and at the labour relations board, the contract negotiated by CEP Local 87-M on behalf of Sun members continues to work for them every day.

We didn't have a wage grid before and the company was systematically lowering wages. They can't do that now and you can bet, under the current drive for economies, they would be doing that.

The contract also prevents the company from getting rid of people just because they are more senior and, therefore, more costly, because layoffs have to take place in order of reverse seniority. In other words, last in, first out.

Some might question whether this is working, in light of the fact that the unit chair, Maryanna Lewyckyj, with 23 years at the Sun, has been laid off. But, as Maryanna often points out, she chose not to bump into a lower position, taking a severance package instead.

If there's ever any doubt that the company would go after senior employees - like they did in 2001 - then look at what happened with Rolf Rimstad, a sports copy editor with 30 years experience.

The company claims they eliminated his position - a "special" copy editor. We say he was fired without cause and we're willing to spend thousands of dollars at arbitration to preserve the principle of seniority at the Sun.

We've had several days before an arbitrator on this. We expect a decision soon.

The unit executive at the Sun is the main body responsible for initiating these actions in the workplace and the Local, or SONG, is there to support them in whatever way we can.

As the former unit chair at the Sun, this support is personally very important to me. I have no greater priority than supporting the Sun members in the face of this destructive attack on our jobs and our newspapers."

Thank you for your update, Brad.

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