The Chronicle Herald buys Transcontinental Inc. newspapers

Union calls move "duplicitous"

Pictou Advocate Breaking News

Transcontinental Inc. will cease to have a media presence in Pictou County.

The owners of The Chronicle Herald are buying up all of Transcontinental Inc.’s newspapers, news websites and four of its printing plants in Atlantic Canada, according to a press released issued earlier this morning from The Chronicle Herald.

The deal means that Transcontinental is turning over 27 publications in the Atlantic Provinces, including The News in New Glasgow,  their related websites, one stand-alone web property, four of its media division’s printing plants, and commercial printing operations in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as its distribution system in Atlantic Canada.

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The result is a new media company, SaltWire Network Inc., jointly owned by the husband-and-wife team of Lever and Sarah Dennis.

While acquiring the Transcontinental properties, SaltWire is still plagued by a 15-month strike by members of the Halifax Typographical Union, which represents more than four dozen editors, reporters, columnists, photographers and support staff in The Chronicle Herald newsroom.

A story on The Chronicle Herald’s website says that in the past three years Transcontinental – which saw losses from its media holdings of $1.3 million in its most recent quarter alone – has shed media properties outside of Quebec. In 2014, the Montreal-based company shut down 20 weeklies after being unable to find buyers. In May of last year, it sold its Saskatchewan newspapers and a magazine to Star News Publishing.

But both Lever and Julia Kamula, Transcontinental’s Senior Vice President, Local Solutions, say the Atlantic Canadian assets are profitable.

A press release from Halifax Typographical Union, which came minutes after the one from The Herald, calls the announcement a “stark contrast” to the concessions and regressive demands the Herald has insisted upon from its striking newsroom staff.

“We were told that the Herald’s demise was imminent if it didn’t immediately cut wages and other benefits to newsroom staff,” said Ingrid Bulmer, president of the HTU.

“Apparently, that was a total fabrication. The company is not struggling but is instead planning to expand.”

The 54 reporters, photographers, editors and support staff who comprise the HTU local have agreed to concessions in wages, changes to the pension plan and a shift in the work that the union performs.

“It was never enough for the Herald for reasons that have become clearer today,” Bulmer said. “They never did intend to bargain fairly with us and now it has become apparent that they were instead working on another deal. What has become clear is why the company continually stalled and ignored us when we requested bargaining meetings.”

Bulmer said Herald president Mark Lever has already presided over two company bankruptcies and is biting off more than he can chew with the new investment.

Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, the national union that represents the HTU members, said the news confirms that the Herald has been duplicitous in bargaining with the union.

“The Herald based its bargaining strategy on pleading poverty, yet even when we agreed to major concessions, it wasn’t enough for them,” O’Hanlon said. “Now we know why. This has never been about money, it has been about power and union busting.”