Updated: Union holds byline strike at Toronto Star


Image courtesy of Newseum

By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

The Toronto Star newsroom is staging a byline strike to protest what it’s calling a two-tiered pay scale.

The newspaper is hiring eight digital journalists, who will be paid less than other reporters and editors in the newsroom. The new digital reporters will be paid approximately $200 less per week than an entry-level Star reporter. 

“We aren’t prepared to stand aside while our company creates second-tier jobs in the newsroom that threaten every one of us—and damages the Star’s precious brand of quality journalism,” the union said in a bulletin to all staff. “This abrupt company introduction of something we’ve never negotiated—a separation of print and digital journalism, with second-tier wages for digital—is a direct assault on our contract, union seniority and every assumption we’ve been working under for a decade-plus.”

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The strike will take place on May 7, the same day the newspaper’s parent company, Torstar Corp., holds its annual general meeting. The company posted a first quarter sales of $310-million, down approximately six per cent in the same period last year. Net income, however, was up to $7.1-million from $4.9-million at this point in 2013, the Financial Post reported

“A lot of people really hate the byline strike, but the newspaper wants to show its deep anger and we couldn’t think of a better time than the AGM,” said Dan Smith, Unifor vice-chair for the Star.

“No one can escape doing digital work, so to say these are unique skills or workers is absurd,” Smith added. “This is a sneaky back-door approach for the company to hire people who are paid less.”

According to a memo sent by Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke  and managing editor Jane Davenport last month, these digital hires will be paid “market-based salaries.”

“Simply put, this means that new digital jobs cannot be rated on print business legacy rates of pay,” the memo said. “Digital revenues—as important as we think they will be for our future—are still out-paced by print revenues 9-to-1.”

Smith said the union is also grieving the layoffs of 11 page editors, who it says do the same work as 60 team editors in “all but name,” and should not have been laid off.

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