Question reaches agreement with union
By Chris Woodall
The Whistler Question newspaper looks to have reached some form of labour peace with a tentative collective agreement between management and staff.
Both sides will decide on ratifying the agreement on Monday evening, Dec. 1.
The conclusion this week was a surprise to Question staff, coming so quickly on the heels of a successful application last week by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — representing the staff — to Section 55 of the Labour Code that would impose an arbitrator on mediated talks that had broken down.
Staff had served strike notice Nov. 4, to put the bargaining unit in a position to activate Section 55, but not necessarily to go on strike.
This will be the unit's first collective agreement, if both sides ratify.
"It would be unusual if the employer didn't ratify the memorandum of settlement," says Marg Randall, IBEW assistant business manager.
The only time it becomes difficult to get an employer to ratify an agreement is when there are several employers in one negotiating unit, Randall says.
Question management decided not to comment on this latest step.
"No, I'm going to reserve comment until the agreement is ratified on Monday," says Question publisher Bryce McGregor.
The only other newspaper in the Question's parent company to attempt to form a union was the Coast News. WestMount Press Ltd. closed the paper just as negotiations were to begin on a first agreement, saying the paper was losing money. The WestMount chain of newspapers stretches from Squamish to Alberta.
The IBEW, however, is happy at the relative speed of the whole process since Question staff voted in June to join the IBEW.
"It proceeded at a fairly even pace," Randall says.
"I first told the bargaining unit it would be a year (before they could expect an agreement), but it took five months and bargaining didn't really start until September," Randall says.
The tentative two-year agreement will give staff a 3 per cent wage increase this year, retroactive to Oct. 15, and another 4 per cent increase by Oct. 15, 1998, Randall says.
Sales staff wanted control over how their client lists were divided among new sales reps. What they got was a statement by management that it will "endeavour to allocate clients in a fair and equitable way" with the consultation of existing sale reaps, Randall says.
"I think that was fairly good language" considering the company didn't want to give on this issue, Randall says.
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