CWA Canada president says workers came to the union after cuts were made to pensions and benefits.

The last place anyone may have ever expected a union drive to start is the National Post, Canada’s national daily with a right-of-centre bent.

But this week, workers announced they are doing exactly that.

On Sept. 13, 2017, CWA Canada and the editorial staff of the National Post announced they had begun a push for unionization. “We’re unionizing because we love this newspaper. We want the Post and its newsroom staff to have long, bright futures,” the union organizing committee said in a statement on the site for the National Post union.

Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, said that the workers actually approached them to begin a union organization effort after management announced cuts to staff pensions and benefits. “People really got upset,” said O’Hanlon.

“Even the people that are quite philosophically conservative — and some of them actually anti-union — realized that their only possible way to fight back would be to bargain collectively,” he added.

“It’s completely self directed,” said a National Post staff person who spoke to J-Source. “It’s something that we the employees fully own.”

Postmedia staff have faced an onslaught of cuts and reorganizations as the company dealt with declining print ad revenue and tried to manage a $648 million debt load. In March 2017, non-unionized staff benefits, including its employment assistance program and maternity and parental leave top-up payments, were cut. Last week, according to the union, another round of staff buyouts was announced.

In July 2017, Postmedia turned a $13 million profit in the third quarter. And last year, unions decried $2.3 million in retention bonuses that were paid out to five of the top staff members at Postmedia — three of those executives have since left the company.

“(Workers) have given to the paper, they’ve been loyal, and now, this is the thanks they get — they get cut, while the top guys make their own bed,” said O’Hanlon.

He said that if Postmedia ever went bankrupt, employees would be better protected because whoever took over the paper would have to respect the collective agreement put in place.

A National Post staff person who spoke to J-Source added that employees want to take some control back over their workplace and be part of the conversation about Postmedia’s future. “We see this as a positive step,” the staff member said. “We want to contribute to the success of the company.”

Postmedia’s spokesperson has yet to respond to J-Source’s request for comment on this story.

Now that the organizing campaign is public, O’Hanlon expects that things will move swiftly.