Canadian Labour movement launches national drive to support locked-out Journal de Québec workers



    MONTREAL, March 9 /CNW Telbec/ - It has been close to one year since
office and editorial staff of Quebec City's Journal de Québec (JdeQ), were
locked out by Quebecor/Sun Media Corporation. The locked out workers were soon
joined by JdeQ printers. Nearly 11 months later, on Wednesday March 12, 2008,
the group will undertake a pan-Canadian tour to publicize, mobilize and gather
support for the issues surrounding the conflict between the 250 workers at the
Journal de Québec, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
and their employer Quebecor/Sun Media Corporation. On March 2, 2008, the
Journal de Québec lockout became the longest running labour conflict at a
French daily in Canada.
    "There was no justification for this conflict in the first place. So,
after almost a year without negotiating success we are announcing plans to
demonstrate that these workers will not be broken by Quebecor. On Wednesday,
we begin a cross-Canada tour to ensure that Canadians are fully aware of the
repulsive tactics employed by Quebecor/Sun Media with its own employees at the
Journal de Québec.
    CUPE's locked-out members will feel the full impact of millions of
workers across Canada supporting them, by the end of this tour." So spoke Paul
Moist, Claude Généreux, Ken Georgetti and Michel Arsenault from the podium of
a Montreal media conference this morning.
    The four represent three million workers in Canada. Paul Moist is
national president of CUPE, Claude Généreux is CUPE's national
secretary-treasurer, Ken Georgetti is president of the Canadian Labour
Congress (CLC) and Michel Arsenault is president of the Quebec Federation of
Labour (QFL).
    Speaking with one voice the labour leaders denounced the sheer arrogance
of Quebecor/Sun Media - the company that forced a lockout on its employees at
a time when JdeQ was the best selling paper in its market. At the same time it
was experiencing the best circulation increase among its class and size of
daily newspapers, in Canada.
    "Until April 22, 2007, the Journal de Québec had not lost one day of work
due to labour conflict in its 40-year history. Furthermore, at the time of the
lockout there was no threat of strike nor any preparation for a strike vote."
    "Today, 11 months later, no one from Quebecor/Sun Media will even grant a
media interview to explain their position-that is arrogance."

    The Canadian Tour

    The tour will begin in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on March 12 and end at the
CLC convention during the last week of May. In between it will move to
Calgary, Alberta on March 13. In April the tour moves to the Maritimes-April 3
to 5 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Wolfville, Nova Scotia from April 6 to 9,
then to Vancouver from April 16 to 19, Brandon, Manitoba from April 24 to 26,
back east to St. John's Newfoundland for May 5 to 7, Charlottetown, Prince
Edward Island for May 8-9 and Niagara Falls, Ontario for May 22 to 24.

    In addition to raising awareness and mobilizing workers to speak out
about the sad state of press freedom brought about by media convergence, the
tour will, no doubt raise funds that will be added to the ongoing support.

    Nine lockouts during the last six years

    In Quebec alone, Quebecor/Sun Media has inflicted nine lockouts during
the last six years. In the last fifteen years Quebecor/Sun Media has used
lockouts on 12 different occasions.
    
    Journal de Montréal (Préparation)
    September 19 to February 6, 1994        140 days       150 workers

    Journal de Montréal (Pressiers)         148 days       148 workers
    October 11, 1993 to March 8, 1994

    Journal de Montréal (Advertising and shipping-two bargaining units)
    October 11, 1993 to March 17, 1994(*)   110.5 days     210 workers

    Vidéotron Telecom
    April 30 to July 16, 2002               78 days        112 workers

    Vidéotron Montréal(*)                   360 days       1,800 workers
    May 8, 2002 to May 2, 2003

    Vidéotron Québec(*)
    May 8, 2002 to May 2, 2003              360 days       313 workers

    TVA Montréal(*)
    July 3 to July 9, 2003                  7 workers      7 days

    TVA Estrie
    January 30 to April 5, 2004             67 days        6 workers

    Journal de Montréal (Sales)
    February 9 to March 15, 2004            36 days        44 workers
    Journal de Montréal (Pressiers)(xx)
    October 22, 2006 to February 12, 2007   114 days       115 workers
    press operators, mechanics, electricians and material handlers

    Journal de Québec (Office)
    April 22, 2007 ongoing                  323 days       68 workers

    Journal de Québec (Editorial)
    April 22, 2007 ongoing                  323 days       69 workers


    (*)  Strike and lock out
    (xx) Illegal lock out (as declared by the courts)
    

    History of the conflict

    The office and editorial staff of the Journal de Québec have been
locked-out since April 22, 2007. Prior to the lockout not one of the JdeQ
unions had taken strike votes or started to mobilize members for the
possibility. In solidarity with their colleagues and incensed that their
employer Quebedor/Sun Media Corporation's unjust treatment, printers at the
JdeQ voted 97% in favour of striking.

    First labour strife in 40 years of publishing

    Until the lockout there had never been a labour dispute at the JdeQ since
its founding in 1967. Furthermore all JdeQ employees had, just two years
previously, agreed to concessions as a show of solidarity and partnership with
their employer. This was done to support Quebecor/Sun Media's battle when
competitor Le Soleil began publishing as a tabloid.
    When the conflict began JdeQ was returning a profit of about 25 million
dollars and was the leading daily in the Quebec City market.
    The growth was ongoing at the time of the lockout. According to figures
from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an organization that specializes in the
evaluation of daily publication numbers throughout North America, the Journal
de Québec had the largest circulation increase (Monday to Friday, for dailies
with circulation greater than 100,000) in of Canada-2.5% for the six
month-period ending on March 31, 2007.
    The brute force of the lockout, notwithstanding, the profitability of the
JdeQ suggests that Quebecor/Sun Media were practicing 'economic terrorism' on
their own organization.

    Job Action with a difference

    No picket lines have gone up from the time of the lock out.
    In fact since April 24, 2007 workers have been publishing and
distributing 40,000 copies of their daily paper, MédiaMatinQuébec.
Quebecor/Sun Media Corporation has subjected the daily to numerous court
challenges in attempts to stop its publication.
    None of these attempts have been successful.
    Despite the conflict, the Journal de Québec continues to be published. It
is usually printed at Mirabel not Quebec City.

    The legal battles

    In a first decision, rendered August 23, 2007, the Quebec Labour Board
ordered the Journal de Québec to stop using the services of four replacement
workers who were performing duties normally performed by the locked-out
employees.
    New complaints were launched last November 2007 against Quebecor/Sun
Media, charging the use of illegal workers. In total, 17 complaints have been
launched that touch 17 workers. Complaints were heard on January 14 and 28 and
there will be further hearing dates on March 12 and 14.
    Under oath, Serge Gosselin, declared that he does not find it 'pertinent'
to know who the Canoe authors are who are providing articles for his daily
where his own staff are locked-out.
    On the other hand as recently as February 2008 the Journal de Québec, the
Internet portal Canoe, and Canoe journalist Hubert Lapointe pleaded not-guilty
to a tribunal, to criminal charges of having divulged the name of the victim
of an aggravated sexual assault despite an order from Quebec's criminal court.
The issue returns to the tribunal on April 15. Note that Hubert Lapointe is
one of the 17 individuals implicated the scabbing complaint.




For further information:

For further information: (English) Paul Moist, CUPE National President,
(613) 558-2873; (French) Claude Généreux, CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer,
(514) 884-5074; Robert Bellerose, CUPE Communications, (514) 247-9266; Jean
Wolff, CTC/CLC, (613) 878-6040; Jean Laverdière, FTQ/QFL, (514) 893-7809;
Source: QFL

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