Windsor Typographical Union | CWA Canada Local 30553

Postmedia Network’s attempt to eliminate an early-retirement provision in their contracts has employees at the Windsor Star up in arms.

Members of three unions on Sunday voted 96 per cent in favour of giving their joint council a strike mandate, which could see them hoisting picket signs by mid-May.

David Esposti, the CWA Canada staff representative who has been assisting the Windsor Typographical Union (WTU) in negotiations that began in late 2010, says Postmedia’s assault on their contracts has electrified the membership.

“This is a very serious undertaking. The three unions are standing together on this issue,” he says.

The wages of the 65 WTU members who work in the mailroom are also threatened: The company wants to reduce part-time hopper feeders’ guaranteed minimum shift from four hours to three, which amounts to a 25-per-cent pay cut, says Esposti.

The collective agreement that expired at the end of December was reached three years ago only minutes after a midnight strike-lockout deadline. Standing united, the WTU, the Communications Energy and Paperworkers (pressroom) and the Canadian Auto Workers (newsroom, advertising, business office) were able to win modest improvements and made no concessions.

This time around, the newspaper is in the hands of Postmedia Network, a group of Canwest creditors who purchased the failing company’s publishing division last summer. In the runup to an initial public offering expected this spring, Postmedia has been cutting hundreds of jobs at the former Canwest newspapers.

With conciliation scheduled for next week, Esposti says the joint council is eager to get on with some serious negotiations and not waste time getting to mediation, the last stage before they can be in a legal strike position. “Let’s start the dance, sooner rather than later,” is the message he’d like to send to management.