Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Press room blues

When Quebecor's new printing plant in Islington opens this fall, it will affect more than 300 non-union press room, mail room and distribution jobs at the Toronto Sun and London Free Press.

One source says about 120 full time Sun employees will be officially terminated on June 29, but kept on as short term contract workers until the new printing plant opens.

About 200 jobs at the London Free Press will also be lost.

The new plant will print the Toronto Sun, London Free Press and non-newspaper products, including telephone books.

The 300-plus Toronto and London employees can apply for jobs at the new plant, but they will not receive preferential treatment.

"They will have to bid for jobs at Islington along with everyone else," Brad Honywill, president of the CEP's Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, told TSF.

"While they have experience on their side, the new presses are much more automated than the ones at the Sun and Quebecor may well use this as an opportunity to get a much younger, and cheaper, workforce," says Brad.

"We anticipate many late papers in London next winter when the snow blows across Hwy 401, slowing traffic to a snail's pace."

Another source said earlier evening deadlines for the Sun and Free Press might be called for to accommodate the printing of non-newspaper products.

The source said if earlier deadlines are imposed, it would eliminate a lot of final scores for evening sports events, definitely not a selling point with sports fans.

Meanwhile, the CEP media union has asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to recognize its jurisdiction over the new Quebecor plant, said Brad.

Silencing the presses will be another blow to the once thriving newspaper building and a step closer to the sale of 333 King Street East.

A brief flashback:

In the summer of 1975, Toronto Sun employees gleefully moved from two floors of a former factory into their new home, a building with six floors and its own presses.

Sun management invited readers to take a tour of the new spiffy new digs and several thousand men, women and children lined up throughout the day for guided tours.

For employees of the four-year-old tabloid, the Sun's new head office at 333 King Street East was the sweet smell of success.

And there was nothing more exhilarating than standing in the press room at about 11:30 p.m. watching the huge Webb presses roll for the first time.

The final press run, more than 35 years later, will not be celebrated.

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