“We have a very strong majority of staff in the editorial and several other departments:” CMG president.

By H.G. Watson, Associate Editor

Staff at Vice Canada are one step closer to unionizing.

The Canadian Media Guild announced on Apr. 29 that it has filed with the Canada Industrial Relations Board to certify the union at Vice Canada after a months long organizing drive. The union has to prove that more than 40 percent of staff have signed a union card.

“We have a very strong majority of staff in the editorial and several other departments,” said Carmel Smyth, president of CMG. Should the CIRB confirm that the union has met the threshold, a vote will be held in 12 days.

A spokesperson for Vice Canada has not yet responded to J-Source’s request for comment.

Vice, which operates in 35 different countries is valued at more than US$4 billion, according to Fortune magazine. Vice staff in the United States unionized with the Writers Guild of America East in 2015. They successfully negotiated a 29 percent pay increase according to the CMG.

Vice Canada has expanded with the debut of its 24-hour cable channel Viceland in Feb. 2016 and its related partnership with Rogers Media.

Former Vice Canada staffer Tannara Yelland told J-Source when the union drive began that the American unionization campaign provided a model for the Canadian office.

“We’ve seen a rash, probably seven digital media organizations in the [United] States, workers have joined unions in the last almost seven months,” said  Smyth, mentioning Gawker and the Huffington Post.

Should the CMG succeed in getting support in a vote among Vice employees, the next step would be negotiating a collective agreement. Among the key concerns for staff, according to the CMG, are higher wages and starting salaries, benefits for contract workers and better benefits for all staff, protection for contract workers, protection against terminations without cause, and the introduction of clear journalistic standards.

Smyth said that this wave of unionization is the result in part of having a young, multi-skilled workforces.

“They are an exceptional generation” said Smyth. “They are not content to do more work than journalists have to do in the past—because they have to provide for more platforms and be an expert on more technology—for lower pay.”

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

H.G. Watson was J-Source's managing editor from 2015 to 2018. She is a journalist based in Toronto. You can learn more about her at hgwatson.com.