Updated: Union concerned Toronto Star management is creating a two-tiered pay system
The union sent a bulletin to Toronto Star staff saying management intends to create 17 new digital positions, which would be paid “significantly less” than similar existing positions in the newsroom.
By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor
The Toronto Star union says it’s concerned management is creating a two-tiered system of employees with its plan to hire 17 new digital staff who will be paid “significantly less” than similar existing positions in the newsroom.
Liz Marzari, Unifor unit chair at the Star, said in the bulletin that some of the positions might already have been filled but the union was not able to confirm that with management. The bulletin also said some existing staffers’ jobs are being altered to accommodate the new hires.
“This is obviously not a good thing,” Marzari told J-Source. “We’re open to having new positions in the newsroom, but we don’t want to have a two-tiered system where some people are paid less than others for doing essentially the same job.”
The positions—three digital reporters, one video producer, one video editor, three video posting assistants, five desktop digital producers, one tablet and one mobile digital producer, as well as four social media positions—will be part of a new department called Torstar.com.
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Publisher John Cruickshank denies the new hires will create a two-tiered pay system or place a higher premium on the print side of operations, instead of a multiplatform approach. He said the new hires will work exclusively on the digital side of the Star’s operations, and therefore the positions need to be paid according to a digital newsroom pay scale.
“You can’t jam these news jobs into a contract that is 50 to 60 years old that was based on when the print advertising model was so successful,” he told J-Source. “The economics of the thestar.com is not the same as the print version, the daily Toronto Star newspaper.”
He said he wanted to have these positions created “ages ago,” and the new jobs would expand the jurisdiction of the union to the digital side. Currently, he said, the union only represents employees of the newspaper.
“These positions do not exist in the newsroom right now … for example, there’s no one who manipulates the news flow on the mobile or edits the story differently in a way that makes the most sense for that platform,” he told J-Source. “And we want to have the union involved … they say they want to help take the newspaper forward and to not contract positions out. Well, we can do that but we have to be aware of the realities of the business today.”
Cruickshank said creating this new department will also shield the new digital hires from layoffs on the print-side. “If we have to make cuts, we can make sure that these new positions that are helping the business evolve will be protected from the changes on the newspaper side,” he said.
The union said it does not intend to agree to anything without a ratification vote. “The company says none of this is “carved in stone,” but this agenda is obviously a huge challenge to the Guild and all of us in the newsroom.”
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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.