Thursday, 14 June 2007

Rita's sabbatical

If you don't see a Rita Demontis story in the Toronto Sun in the next few months, don't fret.

The veteran Toronto Sun writer is enjoying one of the last sabbaticals at the tabloid and, says editor in chief Glenn Garnett in his Inside the Sun blog, will return after Labour Day.

Sabbaticals - paid two-month leaves after each 10 years of service - were one of several much appreciated benefits introduced by founding publisher Doug Creighton in the glory days of the Sun. Employees could tack on vacation time and be gone for three months.

One thing Doug asked of employees was to write about their extended time off for an in-house newsletter. Employees were happy to oblige and wrote about travels near and far, thanking Doug and the Sun for the unique employee benefit.

This blogger pocketed $8,000 in travellers cheques in 1984, hopped a plane to Frankfurt and roamed Europe by train, bus and boat for 10 eventful weeks. What a unique way to thank loyal employees, but that was then and this is now.

Some veteran employees squeezed in a third sabbatical after 30 years before sabbaticals became a Quebecor cutback casualty, along with profit sharing and Christmas bonuses.

Brad Honywill, president of CEP's Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, says sabbaticals were axed in 2004 as part of contract talks with Quebecor.

"Editorial staffers were able to keep whatever sabbatical they had accumulated to that point, but they had to wait until they were eligible to take it," said Brad. "This was a much better deal than the non-union folks got."

A former Sun executive said when sabbaticals were cancelled some people were granted the accrued time and could take it over a two or three-year period.

"This only applied to those who only had a few years to go before they would have been eligible. Others got nothing."

Quebecor's bean counters don't enjoy giving back, not the way founders of the Sun did for almost 30 years.

As for Rita, she has earned every hour of her latest sabbatical.

Joanne Richard and other guest columnists will be filling in for the food and shopping writer.

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