Metro Toronto contract talks face strike/lockout deadline

TORONTO, April 28 /CNW/ - More than 70 editorial, sales, production and office workers at Toronto's Metro daily newspaper are preparing for a potential strike or lockout as their union and employer enter two final days of contract talks today leading to a 12.01 a.m. deadline this Friday.

The workers, whose first contract expired on March 5, are represented by Local 87-M of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the country's biggest media union.

A key issue in the negotiations is the union's demand that the new contract include a traditional wage grid that provides pay increases to reflect advancements in job experience.

The employer for Toronto's highest-circulation daily newspaper has thus far refused to bargain such a grid. Its latest offer would instead effectively cut wages through pay freezes for most workers in 2011 and 2012 and a demand that employees shoulder 15 per cent of the cost of their benefits, which are currently 100 per cent employer-paid.

"It's outrageous that the company is effectively demanding pay cuts at a time when it is rolling in money," said union negotiator Mike Sullivan, pointing to first-quarter results that show Metro's already soaring revenue jumped another 25 per cent in the first three months of this year.

"Even the company boasts that it is doing tremendously well. Most of these workers are already paid well below market rates for the GTA. They are the heart, sweat and soul of this company and deserve to share in its financial success."

Part of a global chain, Metro Toronto is co-owned by Torstar. While the company does not divulge profit figures, the union estimates the free daily made between $6 million and $8 million in profit last year.

Metro Toronto serves as a hub for its sister publications across Canada, providing layout, copy editing and national advertising for markets in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Halifax.

"All we want is a wage grid that fairly reflects our skills and contributions to the company's growth as well as the higher costs of living in Toronto," said union chairperson John Orr. "It's unreasonable and insulting to ask our members to subsidize Metro's profits through cuts to their take-home pay.

"Nobody wants a labour dispute, but we will do whatever is necessary to get a just contract."

SOURCE News - Media

For further information: For further information: Mike Sullivan, CEP National representative: (416) 240-7836; John Orr, Metro union chair: (416) 831-1447

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