Staff voted on Aug. 10 to ratify tentative deal between union and management.

By H.G. Watson, Managing Editor

After 18 months on strike, staff at the Chronicle Herald are finally going back to work.

On Aug. 10, the Halifax Typographical Union, the union representing the striking workers, announced that a majority of the union local had voted to ratify a tentative deal with SaltWire Network.

However, as a result of the deal, about half the staff will be laid off, according to the CBC.

“We are relieved that the strike has finally ended, but the feelings are mixed because we are losing more than half our newsroom staff, colleagues who are good friends, great journalists and even better people,” said HTU president Ingrid Bulmer in a statement posted on CWA Canada — HTU’s parent union — website. Mark Lever, president and CEO of the Chronicle Herald, said in a statement issued to the CBC they want to welcome back returning employees.

In a press release sent Aug. 8 by the union and SaltWire executives, they had announced they had reached the tentative deal after two days of mediation.

On July 13, the Nova Scotia government announced it was calling an Industrial Inquiry Commission to investigate the differences between both parties for the purpose of resolving the dispute. The process started on Aug. 4.

Herald management and the Halifax Typographical Union, which has just over 50 members, have been locked in a dispute since Jan. 23, 2016. At the time, Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA-Canada, described the proposed changes to the collective agreement as draconian. In addition to the proposed changes, the union said management wanted to cut wages, increase work hours and cut a third of newsroom positions.

According to the HTU, the new contract includes a seniority clause for layoffs; a five per cent wage cut (with pay increases over the next seven years); increased severance for laid off staff; and a work week increase to 37.5 hours from 35. Local Xpress, the website created by the striking workers, will be shut down.

Since the strike began last year, the striking workers have created their own online media outlet, Local Xpress. Meanwhile, the owners of the Chronicle Herald, announced in April 2017 that they had purchased 28 brands in Atlantic Canada from TC Transcontinental, including print dailies The Guardian (PEI), the Journal-Pioneer (PEI), The Telegram (Newfoundland and Labrador), The Western Star (Newfoundland and Labrador), Cape Breton Post, The News (Nova Scotia), and the Truro Daily News. Also included in the sale was the digital-only site  www.novanewsnow.com, and four printing plants in the Maritimes. They also created a new ownership group called SaltWire Network.

H.G. Watson can be reached at hgwatson@j-source.ca or on Twitter.