Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Edmonton Sun Unionizing Drive

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Edmonton union drive

Employees of Quebecor's thinning Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Examiner launched a united union organizing committee Wednesday, with CEP union reps soon arriving to hand out leaflets.

The union says approximately 200 employees in the building gave the union reps and organizers a warm welcome, with many saying a union was long overdue.

Management attempted to force organizers off the parking lot, but they pointed out the property wasn't owned by Sun Media/Quebecor and they refused to budge.

Employees have been complaining of heavy and increasing workloads, pay raises averaging half the rate of inflation, no grids, no overtime, arbitrary changes in sales commission plans, and very poor morale, says the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

Employees of both papers notified their publishers they had formed a union organizing committee. Soon after, members of the organizing committee, along with Ray Wade, CEP Local 255-G president, and Brad Honywill, CEP Local 87-M (SONG) president, were outside the building handing out leaflets announcing the drive.

Honywill said the goal is to get 40% of the Sun and Examiner employees to sign cards saying they favour a union. If that is accomplished, the Alberta Labour Relations board would oversee a secret vote.

The profitable Edmonton Sun, hammered by cutbacks, layoffs, buyouts and resignations in the past year, is down to about 150 employees, said one source.

"I've never seen a group of employees so demoralized," said Honywill. "And it's obvious from the size of the paper that it is thriving. But the employees aren't sharing in that success."

Honywill said it appears as if a typical reporter earns about $45,000 a year at the Edmonton Sun, compared to a rate of $76,000 per year for reporters in the unionized Toronto Sun newsroom.

And, he says, Edmonton Sun reporters' rate will go down by 3% this year in real terms because they got an average wage increase of 2% when the Alberta inflation rate is 5%.

What's more, they don't get recognized for experience because there is no grid, he said.

"Some people in Toronto may have forgotten what life was like before they had a union," says Honywill. "The Edmonton situation is a poignant reminder."

He said SONG has organized five Sun Media units in the last four years, including:

Sales/circulation/production employees at the London Free Press;

Editorial units at the Toronto Sun and Ottawa Sun;

Pre-press at the Toronto Sun;

Most of the Simcoe Reformer staff.

"It is now playing a lead role in the drive at the Edmonton Sun," said Honywill.

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