Last week, the Chronicle Herald published an editorial espousing the paper’s opinion on first contract arbitration (FCA). The Herald’s editorial team doesn’t like FCA, which should not be surprising, seeing as editorial staff is also part of the paper’s management structure.
The Herald editorial claims that there are “widespread warnings” that the policy (which exists in 7 other provinces), would make “an already tough situation worse,” and calls the policy “irresponsible.” Later, it becomes clear that so-called widespread warnings are coming exclusively from employers. The unsigned editorial goes on firmly to state “We strongly oppose this bill.”
Who strongly opposes it? The editorial team, whose names are not published on the editorial, nor easily accessible on the Herald’s website.
The Herald fails to mention that unions support the bill. While the Herald has accepted the myths propagated by businesses about FCA, the editorial does not mention that labour unions and other progressive organizations have presented research and data showing that FCA has no impact on business.
I am sure some might argue that workers have a stake in FCA – which they do. But for the life of me, I cannot understand what the logic would be for workers to support a policy that would hurt jobs. There’s a pretty blatant contradiction there.
When it comes down to it, besides being a newspaper, the Herald is also an employer, and this Herald editorial should raise significant questions as to what role the corporate media has in producing editorial positions on labour issues, without being open and transparent about their own stake in the debate as employers/management.
Disputes between workers and the Herald are no secret. In 2009, the Herald cut one quarter of its newsroom. Gone are the paper’s beat reporters – reporters who stick to certain sectors or topics in order to develop a more holistic view of the topic, ask more informed questions of those in power, and provide better coverage to readers. Almost three years later, the impacts of those cuts are very clear – you only need to compare the number of locally-generated articles to those picked up from wire services like the Canadian Press and the Associate Press, to see the impact on local news coverage.
More recently, this past spring, the Herald presented freelance writers with a new contract that gave the newspaper far-reaching rights over freelancers' work, while also expecting freelance writers to take on the lion’s share of legal responsibility. Several freelance writers refused the contracts and were let go. Some freelancers joined the Canadian Freelance Union and attempted to negotiate with the newspaper; however, the negotiations didn't garner significant gains.
While workers at the Herald, excluding freelance writers, are union members, the Chronicle Herald does have an interest in a labour code that works in favour of employers: an interest that it should have to clearly state.
When I occasionally pick up freelance work, I am expected to be open and transparent about any interest I may have in a story I’ve written. If, for example, a union member writes on their work place, or a campaign of their union, it is expected that they would identify themselves as such, unless doing so would threaten their job. In such a case where identifying themselves or their affiliations could pose a threat to their health, safety, or job security, this would need to be explained. This is an essential part of a free and transparent press.
The Chronicle Herald’s published vision states that the paper “is proud of its legacy of independence, integrity and place as a vital part of the fabric of the communities we serve.” Readers, though, are not served when the Herald takes stances that forward its interests as an employer without providing readers with information on their stake in an argument.
Kaley Kennedy is a member of the Halifax Media Co-op. She is a non-unionized worker who supports first contract arbitration and a labour code that sides with workers.