Windsor Typographical Union | CWA Canada Local 30553

A tentative deal reached between three unions and the Windsor Star mere minutes ahead of a Friday midnight strike deadline scored all-around thumbs up in ratification votes yesterday. The three-year collective agreement mostly preserves an enviable early-retirement provision that new owner Postmedia Network wanted to abolish. It was that stance at the outset of talks early in the new year, along with what amounted to a proposed wage freeze, that galvanized 230 union members and led to a 96-per-cent strike vote in late March. Brian Beaumont, vice-president of the Windsor Typographical Union (WTU) and chair of its bargaining committee, says these were a “tough set of negotiations given the economic times.” Postmedia, which last year purchased newspaper assets from a virtually bankrupt Canwest, made it clear “it did not want to move forward with any wage increases.” In the end, he says, “We got the best deal possible and that’s what we told our members (on Sunday).” The WTU, with 72 workers in the mailroom; the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents staff in the newsroom, advertising and business office; and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers (pressroom) voted 100, 93 and 100 per cent respectively to ratify the contract that contains modest wage increases. David Esposti, the CWA Canada staff representative who assisted the WTU in the joint-council negotiations, says the 60 part-time hopper feeders are the big winners. While all full-time workers get a $1,000 lump sum in lieu of a first-year increase (followed by 1.0 per cent in year two and 1.5 per cent in the third year), they get a lump sum of $500 plus a one-per-cent wage increase in the first year. The other major victory for the part-timers, says Esposti, is that they retain their guaranteed minimum shift of four hours, which Postmedia wanted to trim to three, amounting to a 25-per-cent pay cut. “By the end of this three-year contract,” he says, “WTU members will be making more than $17 an hour.” Esposti says the “elephant in the room” during the four days of mediation last week was the early retirement provision, which allows employees qualified to retire at age 60 to receive half pay, full benefits and pension contributions until age 65. Under the new arrangement, which is now in effect for all future contracts until existing employees have exercised their rights, retirees will receive 45 per cent pay and full benefits for four years and pension contributions for two years. In addition, says Esposti, the employer-funded pension plan contributions increase by 25 cents in year two and a similar amount in year three, bringing the total to $15 per shift. All three unions saw gains, including a night-shift premium that goes from $14.50 to $15 in year two; vision care increases $25 to $275 every two years; and sons- and daughters-in-law are now included as immediate family for three-day bereavement leave entitlement. Esposti says there were several contract language changes that benefitted the WTU and one that retained the union’s jurisdiction but gave the employer a break on overtime rules. The last two collective agreements at the Windsor Star were achieved within minutes either side of a strike/lockout deadline. This agreement will expire at the end of 2013.