KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) -- In a recent interview, Halifax Typographical Union president Ingrid Bulmer noted that the Chronicle Herald, in a move related to the potential lockout of the 61 members of her union, had been soliciting students at the University of King's College journalism program for replacement labour positions, should the unionized employees be locked out. With the conciliator's report having been filed late last week, there is now a two-week 'cooling off' period, after which the Chronicle Herald – the Halifax 'daily of record' - will be in a legal 'lock out' position.
The Chronicle Herald has a recent history of lockouts and downsizings, having most recently locked out employees in February, 2014. Although the Herald is privately owned – and its books thus out of the public eye – North American print media publications have almost unilaterally suffered economically over the past years.
But is scab labour, towards a future of non-unionized, piecemeal, contracts, the new way to go towards affordably running a newspaper?
Kelly Toughill, director of the King's School of Journalism, tells the Halifax Media Co-op that she has not been made aware of the Chronicle Herald having contacted students, and would be “very surprise and irritated if they did that without contacting me or someone in the school.”
Toughill notes, however, that recent journalism graduates have contacted her seeking advice, after having been solicited by the Chronicle Herald to act as replacement labour should the Typographical Union be locked out. Toughill says it isn't a career move she'd personally recommend.
“I've had emails from several graduates that have been approached, asking my advice,” says Toughill. “What I've told them is that I have seen it hurt other journalists in the past. I can't tell people what they should do with their lives. However it can actually injure their reputation with fellow journalists and potentially make it more difficult to be hired in other outlets later, if they're perceived as somebody that's divisive within the journalism community.”
As for the King's Student Union (KSU), current president Alex Bryant notes that despite the steep costs of tuition, the long-term implications of scabbing during a lockout outweigh the potential of quick cash.
“We understand the position of student journalists who are both trying to get a foot in the door and offset the costs of extremely high tuition fees,” says Bryant. “But scabbing on unionized labour contributes to the destruction of journalism as a profession in Nova Scotia.
“Students need to stand with the Typographical Union to continue to support the existence of full-time, quality jobs for journalism in Nova Scotia. From the KSU's perspective, strong unions make strong newsrooms.”