Union members picket outside the Times Colonist in this photo from 2002. The strike began at noon on Sept. 3, 2002 and was ultimately to last exactly nine weeks.

An about-face by management of the Victoria Times Colonist has brought contract talks with three unions screeching to a halt.

The Victoria Joint Council of Newspaper Unions says meetings planned for next week have been cancelled and no new dates have been scheduled. The impasse was reached when the employer attempted to reintroduce significant items the Council believed had been removed.

Negotiations to renew three collective agreements that expired at the start of this year began on May 1. Two CWA Canada Locals and the Communications Energy and Paperworkers bargain jointly at the newspaper, which is now owned by Postmedia Network.

The Victoria-Vancouver Island Newspaper Guild represents 153 employees in editorial, advertising, circulation, maintenance, information technology and business departments. The 35 workers in the mailroom belong to Local 30403 while CEP’s 29 members work in the pressroom, pre-press and composing.

The unions faced similar difficulties in negotiations four years ago when the newspaper was still owned by Canwest. The company at that time went into talks seeking major concessions that one union spokesman described as “total decimation.” In the end, however, they were able to reach agreement on new contracts that went forward rather than backward.