It took two long years, but the Battle for the Journal de Montreal is over.
Deciding to put an end to the agony, the union accepted by a margin of 64% to accept an offer they rejected by 90% last October.
For the 265 workers locked out, only about 65 will return to work, the others made redundant, but walking away with around $100,000 in termination payments. Still not bad for getting crushed.
Dejected union leaders sounded like the late Ayatollah Khomeini who in accepting Iran's ceasefire and end to the hostilities with Iraq, described it like 'Drinking a cup of poison.'
Union leader, Raynald Leblanc, described it as a day of mourning and André Fortin, a CSN representative blamed the scabs that were permitted to work by crossing the picket line electronically.
But his bitterest denunciation was aimed at the public which refused to heed calls for a boycott of the newspaper, which actually saw circulation and advertising revenue increase during lockout.
To the union, it seemed that the public was siding with Pierre-Karl Péladeau but truth be told, most people didn't give a hoot, one way or the other. It was perceived quite rightly as a battle between a powerful union and a powerful corporation and so to the public, it seemed that they had no dog in this fight.
Before the lockout, the focus of the newspaper was to bash anglophones with such wonderful articles such as this pearl; "Sorry I don't speak French," an article wherein the paper sent out a reporter pretending to be unlingually English, to apply for about
20 minimum wage jobs in Montreal's downtown. Since the reporter landed 16 of the jobs, it was determined by the newspaper that French was on the decline.
A Montreal Gazette reporter Andy Riga countered the article with his own unscientific test which proved quite the opposite. It's a good read.
But back to the knitting.....
Ever since the employees were locked out, the paper has improved dramatically.
The QMI agency that PKP set up to provide alternate, content has done a bang-up job and the stories are crisper, the graphics more exciting and the exposés balanced and devastatingly on point.
The younger Journal writers sensed what the older locked out veterans hadn't noticed, that bashing anglos was no longer something that most readers were particularly interested in. Truth be told, other issues have long surpassed the traditional anglo/francophone chicane, which has, over the years considerably weakened. The old stories of 'Speak white' and Simon Legree English bosses are gone and no longer a fair representation of every day Montreal life.
Perceptions have changed and if anything the new 'persons of interest' are the immigrants who 'appear' to be taking over the city and those religious-nicks demanding reasonable accommodations.
But by far the biggest change in the JdeM is balance, with the paper hiring columnists that are separatist, right wing 'tea party conservatives,' as well as middle-of-the-roaders. It's an eclectic mix that has Gilles Proulx writing opposite Eric Duhaime and it makes for good reading.
That being said, nothing but nothing, signals the new direction of the paper like the very popular and almost daily attack on government waste and all manner of politicians. Nobody is spared.
Each week, we are treated to delicious stories of civil servants wasting our money. Unionized government workers are given a very special rough ride with stories showing them loafing, sleeping and attending unproductive feel-good events on the public dime.
Politicians of all stripes are mocked with a decidedly sarcastic tone which the public seems to adore!
A new an wildly popular feature is the weekly list of grants given out by the ever generous provincial government.
Pierre-Karl Péladeau has proven one thing with his lockout. That a better product could be put out for less money, once the union is busted. It's a dangerous precedent, even with Quebec's anti-scab laws.
Bosses stuck with unproductive, overpriced unionized shops will look to win some sort of relief.
Although they can't hire replacement workers, there are other strategies.
I recently visited a friend's factory where he proudly told me that his union problems were a thing of the past. When threatened with unionization he fired all the employees and contracted out. Now the workers belong to another company. If they go on strike, it's not against his business and he's free to hire another sub-contractor.
I know of another factory that hires two different ethics group that compete with each other for jobs in the factory. The internal competition between the groups for supremacy keeps the union at bay. Any unionization threat will be countered by more jobs going to the ethnic group that promises loyalty.
The new Quebec......
Pierre-Karl Peladeau Poised to Become Canada's Next Media Scion