#102 – 5783 176A Street, Cloverdale, BC, V3S 6S6 1 604 408 0746 unifor2000@unifor2000.ca

Unifor Local 2000 is pleased with a recent decision from arbitrator John Hall following a lengthy arbitration hearing over union jurisdiction at the Chilliwack Progress, a Black Press publication.

The arbitrator determined that Black Press must award the union $7,500 and cease violating the collective agreement. It also clarified the extent to which management can perform union work.

“This was a very important, existential case for us, because union jurisdiction goes to the heart of what we do: protecting members’ jobs,” said Jennifer Moreau, secretary-treasurer for Local 2000.

The conflict arose in May 2020, after Black Press promoted Chilliwack Progress reporter Paul Henderson to a non-union Editor position. Henderson continued writing a substantial number of stories, covering crime and courts in particular, which the union grieved for going above and beyond the past practice.

The Black Press Lower Mainland collective agreement stipulates that “Management personnel may perform bargaining unit work if it was established as a past practice and does not eliminate or involuntarily reduce the hours of bargaining unit jobs.”

The union and the company held different interpretations on what this clause meant and how it should be applied, which led to a grievance and arbitration.

Click here for the full decision: John Hall Arbitration Award: Black Press Unifor – Chilliwack

Highlights from Hall’s decision:

I find whatever unchallenged practices have developed over the period leading to the most recent renewal additionally constitute “a past practice” for purposes of the LOA [letter of agreement]. …

Further, as the Collective Agreement covers a single bargaining unit, past practice is not defined on a site-specific basis nor by the scope of bargaining unit work performed by a specific editor. A broader or more holistic approach was implicitly intended and a site specific limitation was removed when the LOA was negotiated. On the other hand, I accept the Union’s argument that past practice at a one or two person newspaper cannot “walk itself over” and be applied at one of the larger newspapers where there has historically been a markedly different delineation between the respective roles of reporters and editors – and, especially, the extent to which editors have written news content.…

It may be that [Chilliwack Progress editor] Mr. Henderson’s writing “dropped off a cliff” when he became the editor. Nonetheless, a rough page count of the foregoing compilations shows that Mr. Henderson wrote significantly more news content during those four months than either [Black Press editors] Mr. Burkholtz or Mr. Knill wrote on an annual basis. Converted to an annual figure, the number of pages attributed to Mr. Henderson was about five times that for Mr. Burkholtz (who was considerably higher than Mr. Knill).