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Halifax Typographical Union files complaint with Labour Minister

As Chronicle Herald suggests lockout, union wants it preemptively declared illegal.

by Miles Howe

The Halifax Typographical Union claims that the Chronicle Herald never negotiated in good faith, and wants the Nova Scotia Labour Board to call any lockout situation illegal. [Photo via flickr]
The Halifax Typographical Union claims that the Chronicle Herald never negotiated in good faith, and wants the Nova Scotia Labour Board to call any lockout situation illegal. [Photo via flickr]

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Labour woes continue for the thirteen members of the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU) employed at the Chronicle Herald.

Today, the HTU, along with the Communication Workers of America (CWA/SCA), presented a complaint to Labour Minister Kelly Regan. As is protocol, the unions are requesting that the minister refer their complaint to the Nova Scotia Labour Board for determination. The next step, pending the minister's approval, would be to convene a panel to address the complaint.

The joint HTU-CWA complaint focuses on the fact that in recent attempts to bargain for a new collective agreement, Chronicle Herald management has come in violation of 'Section 35' of the Trade Union Act, which states that: “the employer has bargained to impasse and is threatening to lock out employees to try to force acceptance by the union of an improper and unlawful collective bargaining proposal.”

Specifically, the HTU-CWA make reference to a letter that has circulated to non-unionized staff. The letter, claim representatives from the HTU-CWA, suggests that workers should be ready for a lockout situation, but that replacement workers for locked out, unionized, staff will be available.

In their recent attempts to negotiate a new collective agreement for their membership, HTU-CWA representatives note that they have reached a particular impasse with Chronicle Herald management over the issue of 'early retirement'. Management, they say, wants to totally remove the commitment made in 2007 to provide optional early retirement to qualifying employees.

This isn't a matter of breaking the proverbial bank on pension payoffs, notes CWA staff representative Dave Esposti. The potential for early retirement – as it would stand if the clause remained in a new, four year collective agreement – would only stand to impact one individual.

“There's only six eligible employees who were employed prior to 2006,” notes Esposti. “Of those, only one stands to have thirty years of employment, and be fifty five years of age, the two qualifiers for early retirement.”

The HTU-CWA's complaint also notes that Chronicle Herald management has only engaged in “surface bargaining”, in that there has never been any intent on the part of management to bargain in good faith.

The intent of the complaint now before the Minister Regan, says Esposti, is to circumvent a lock-out situation, and to place the emphasis on management returning to the bargaining table with real intent. If the Chronicle Herald goes forward with the threatened lockout, the aim is for the Labour Board to find the lockout itself to be illegal.

“The aim of the complaint, is that if the lockout occurs, that the lockout be deemed illegal,” says Esposti. “In other words [The Chronicle Herald has] gone through conciliation, meditation, engaged in what I call 'surface bargaining' with no real intent. He's got us to the point where he wants us, which is up against a wall. And he's threatening us with a lockout. And if he does that, and you find that he's negotiated in bad faith, it then follows that the lockout is illegal. And we want any employee affected by that to be made whole, meaning their wages paid, etcetera, etcetera.”

UPDATED (02/10/15) - 9:30pm ATL - Nova Scotia Labour Minister Kelly Regan has accepted the HTU-CWA's request. Their complaint has now been brought before the Nova Scotia Labour Board.

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