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Star strike enters fourth month

BY RICK PUSIAK The lockout at the Sudbury Star has entered its fourth month with no resolution to the dispute in sight. Northern Ontario Newspaper Guild Local 30232 spokesperson Denis St.

The lockout at the Sudbury Star has entered its fourth month with no resolution to the dispute in sight.

Northern Ontario Newspaper Guild Local 30232 spokesperson Denis St. Pierre said management informed the union through a provincial mediator they do not want to return to the bargaining table.

When asked whether he believes management is trying to starve out the union, St. Pierre said if that is the company?s objective they?re not going to succeed.

Publisher Ken Seguin denied the company is unwilling to return to the bargaining table.

Seguin, in fact, said he is unaware where St. Pierre would have gotten that information.

From what he understands the mediator who has been recently dealing with the dispute retired, and the files dealing with the matter went back to the original mediator.

?From what I understand through my bargaining person I think (the original mediator) did get a hold of us, and we sort of brought him up to speed on what was going on,? said Seguin.

?From what I understood he was then going to call?the union rep?s bargaining person. He was going to get back to my person and I haven?t heard back from my person yet?I?m kind of a little miffed that the union would say we?re not prepared to talk when we?ve said all along that?that?s how everything gets resolved, is by discussion.?

The Sudbury Star continues to publish with management and replacement workers.

?I?ve got myself and my managers and other people, we?re working very hard,? said Seguin.

?We?ve been fairly successful over the four months. Certainly it hasn?t been easy...?

About a month ago, the locked-out union members took to staging information pickets outside businesses that continue to advertise with the daily newspaper. More recently union members have started going door-to-door to get subscribers to cancel.

?One thing the company has done is they?ve decided not to honour the wishes of people who have cancelled their subscriptions and have been delivering the paper to these people regardless of whether they?re willing to pay for it or not,? said St. Pierre.

?They?re willing to give away free papers apparently?we?re going to be going door-to-door?making people well aware that this is still a scab newspaper, this is not a community newspaper any longer and letting them know they have a right to cancel their subscription and expect The (Sudbury) Star not to trespass on their property to bring them the paper they don?t want.?

St. Pierre said the union has learned subscriptions have dropped by about 3,000. The newspaper says it is much less.

Seguin is disappointed with the door-to-door tactic.

?This dispute is going to end sometime,? said the publisher. ?The door-to-door tactic is not very productive.?

Meanwhile, a hearing may be held next month to deal with an unfair labour practice charge filed by the company against the locked-out labour organizations.

The daily newspaper submitted an 11-page claim to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) in November.

A key issue in the claim is the money workers are receiving from their unions while locked out.

Management says the pay stifles any incentive for the unions to return to the bargaining table.

The union has until Jan. 17 to respond to the company claim. A labour relations officer is expected to sit down informally with both sides in the near future in Sudbury.

If the matter can?t be resolved it will go to the hearing stage.

More than half of the locked out employees, reporters and office workers, including advertising salespeople, are getting $450 tax free every week. Nine locked out pressmen who belong to another locked out union in the dispute are receiving $175 per week.

Part-time mail room employees get $250 per week.

Guild members are taking money out of their own pockets and making donations to help the pressmen survive.

The last contract offer from the company presented in late November was a four-year pact that included a short-term guarantee of no layoffs and wage increases of 2.5, 2, 2 and 3 per cent.

The union is still hanging on for a long-term no layoff guarantee.

About 70 workers are locked out. A small local involving about half a dozen people voted to go back to work early on in the dispute.

There are four different bargaining units with four different collective agreements at the city?s daily newspaper.

The unionized workers are represented by two national organizations, the Newspaper Guild Canada and the Graphic Communications International Union which negotiate collectively as a joint council.

Toronto-based Osprey Media Group Inc. owns the Sudbury Star.