Thursday, 31 December 2009

A union recap

As decades go, this one wrapping up tonight has not been kind to union and non-union Sun Media employees and print journalism in general.

And as years go, 2009 was more of the same as Quebecor continued to downsize and reshape the way Canadian newspapers have been doing business for more than 250 years.

Brad Honywill, president of CEP Local 87-M (SONG), provides TSF readers with a recap of 2009 and a hint of what to expect in 2010.

He writes:

Sun Family Members,

This has been a difficult year for members of the Sun Media family, both union and non-union.

There’s been a gradual erosion of our numbers over the course of 2009, climaxing with the announcement that the Belleville Intelligencer mailroom will be closed this January and the work transferred to Kingston, resulting in the loss of 50 jobs.

And we’re all shocked by the nature and severity of the cutbacks at the Toronto Star, likely affecting many former Sun Media members. The union is awaiting a response from the company on our alternatives to the downsizing, but the general trend of outsourcing is a worry for all 3,200 members in the 34 workplaces serviced by SONG (CEP 87-M).

Sun Media has taken a somewhat different tact, “insourcing” the work to centralized, non-union, centres in places like Barrie, Brockville and Woodstock.

But there have been some victories over the past year in preserving member jobs and rights.

We organized the Sarnia Observer as 2008 came to a close and, in 2009, the spin-off centralized pagination centre in Dresden. Later, we succeeded in getting the Dresden unit re-united with the Sarnia unit as a result of an agreement reached in a hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The Board also ruled this year that Sun Media is the “common employer” for members at the Toronto Sun, London Free Press and Ottawa Sun, giving members more rights in defending the transfer of their work to non-union entities.

And the London Free Press unit has succeeded in attracting many jobs as the most recent “Centre of Excellence” for production and pagination work.

As we enter 2010, several Sun Media contracts are in negotiation and several more come due at the end of the year.

Currently in negotiation are the following units: London Free Press editorial; Chatham Daily News; Pembroke Observer; Belleville Intelligencer; Simcoe Reformer; Brantford Expositor, Niagara Falls Review, Stratford Beacon-Herald advertising and the Sarnia Observer.

Coming up for renewal at the end of 2010 are: the Owen Sound Sun-Times; Toronto Sun; Ottawa Sun; St. Catharines Standard and the Stratford Beacon-Herald editorial/composing/mailroom unit. The contract for the Local’s largest unit, the Toronto Star, also comes up at the end of 2010.

These are tough times to be in negotiations. But we’re fighting hard to preserve jobs and working conditions, specifically elements of Quebecor’s recently-introduced Flex Media benefit plan which provides virtually no protection against escalating health care costs.

In this environment, I think it’s important that an experienced leader, with the broad support of the unit chairs and the local executive, be at the helm of our Local. Consequently, I intend to seek another term as SONG president at our nomination meeting on Jan. 20.

As we start 2010, I wish all the members of the Sun Family a very happy New Year. No matter what gets thrown at us, we remain a family of hard-working, skilled, dedicated employees who can be proud every day of our contributions and support for fellow members.

Brad Honywill
President, CEP Local 87-M (SONG)

Thank you for your comments, Brad.

Happy New Year to you and all members of the Toronto Sun Family, from Day Oners to novices.

We look forward to another year of your TSF postings and comments.


  1. Let's hope there will be jobs at these papers in 2010. Most will see serious cutbacks with pagination moving overseas. Dresden will be gone as will many more mailrooms, as London has purchased new inserting equipment, which you guessed it, requires less people to manage and is much faster. Less hours, less people, are there really more jobs?

  2. For the unionized folks it's probably better, but for some of us who aren't protected by a union, we're pretty much dead.

    2010 isn't looking all that promising, at least at the paper I work at.

    If I still have a job by the end of the year I'll consider it a good year... how sad and demoralizing is that when each day I come into the office I don't know if it's going to be my last.

  3. Heading to India soon. May reapply for my old job. LOL

  4. Yah, good luck to all the 'suits' now plotting the next blockbuster downsizing moves to be announced either late this month or early February. At least those of us in the trenches know we're on the chopping block and see it coming. The suits, on the other hand, are all marching in unison without a care in the world. Keep smiling boys and girls, 'cause when we're all gone, you'll be next to get the boot. Massive centralization of management can't be far behind :)

  5. I'd like to see the union stick it to PKP this time around. Let's get our money's worth, please... "...And Justice For All!"