It was great to hear that representatives of The Globe and Mail and Local 87-M of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union reached a tentative agreement just before midnight last night, averting a painful strike. A ratification vote is scheduled for Monday.
Both sides had a lot to lose. The Globe, owned by CTVglobemedia Inc., is trying to hold its own in a soft economy against a resurgent Toronto Star, still the country’s biggest paper by circulation. Meanwhile, the moribund National Post, owned by Canwest, is hanging onto life by its ink-stained fingertips. Globe executives faced at least a couple of additional challenges. The first was the prospect of expecting its newsroom managers, many of whom are razor-sharp journalists but less than technologically savvy, keep both the newspaper and website operations alive and credible during a work stoppage. The second was that the union had a firm grip on the company’s workforce: A single contract bundles all of its unionized employees — advertising, circulation, operations, editorial, etc.
Employees, too, faced difficult circumstances as the journalism job market adapts to new delivery platforms. Details of the new deal aren’t yet public, but pensions, wages and working conditions had been major stumbling blocks. How bitter the pill will likely be known after Monday.
Nevertheless, it’s a good-news story for Canadian news junkies and the task of Canadian journalism. But it raises the question: If the Globe and its union can manage to reach a deal amid a complex, quickly changing media environment where nothing is a sure thing anymore, why can’t Toronto and its outside workers find common ground and get the city working again?