WE ARE THE STAR.ca
STAR UNIT UPDATES

Election for Local President and
Representative Council Members

There will be an election this year for Local President and to select your Representatives for Representative Council. This election will be held on site on Wednesday, March 11 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Ballot boxes will be located in the Cafeteria in the old smoking area. There will also be an advance poll on Thursday, March 5 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the same location.

For members at the VPC, Zoning Reps and others in the bureaus there will be mail in ballots sent to you over the next week. If you work at 1 Yonge Street and are unable to attend either of the onsite voting days please contact myself at maureen@song.on.ca or Les Veszlenyi at lveslenyi@thestar.ca as soon as possible and you will be sent a mail in ballot.

I urge all of you to take the time necessary to read the election material from all the candidates and to make every effort to vote. Material from the Presidential candidates is posted on several bulletin boards and there will be an election sheet outlining the candidates for Representative Council coming soon.

Again, I ask that you take the few minutes necessary to vote on one of the dates above either before or after work on your lunches or breaks.

Maureen Dawson
Unit Chair
maureen@song.on.ca
416-861-1197

(February 26, 2009)


Fallout continues
from layoff wave

More than 300 years
of experience gone

Many details left
to be decided

The disturbing events of last week, that continued today at The Toronto Star, has sparked much pain and uncertainty among our membership. We join in the dismay of all at the loss of more than 300 years of staff experience through the announced layoffs of some 43 people last week, and another two layoffs announced today in Finance and Administration. One-quarter of our unionized Advertising staff, or 38 employees, have been given layoff notices.

In Advertising, the breakdown is:

  • 6 Outside Sales Reps
  • 3 Commission Salespersons (their departure is partly as a result of a grievance settlement)
  • 8 Inside Sales Reps
  • 1 Intermediate Layout Person
  • 3 full-time and four part-time Coordinators
  • 2 full-time and six part-time Classified Ad Takers
  • 1 Part Time Classified Coordinator
  • 2 Copy Processors
  • 2 Service Verifiers

In Circulation and Marketing:

  • 2 Travelers
  • 1 Single Copy Clerk
  • 1 temporary CSR clerk

In Finance and Administration:

  • 1 Secretary
  • 1 Office Messenger

In Promotions:

  • 1 Art Director

What's next? Our first concern is for those employees who have received termination notices. The sequence of events for them, and for their affected colleagues, particularly in Advertising, is devilishly complex. Briefly -- or as briefly as we can make this stuff:

The company will offer Voluntary Departures to more senior employees in affected categories. That offer will be at 2.4 weeks of pay per year of service. The company has agreed to raise the maximum number of weeks available to 78 from 52. Once the results of that offer are known, some employees may be 'saved' by those voluntary departures. Then the arduous process of applying Guild job seniority down through affected ranks, which we all know as "bumping," begins.

The company decided to keep all but three of the Commissioned Salespersons. This means 18 of the unaffected Commissioned Salespersons (all but one) are junior to the Outside and Inside Sales Reps named in our Collective Agreement as having bumping rights into Commission Salesperson jobs. As a result of the grievance settlement last week, three full-time employees who should have previously had this option will be permitted to move to Outside Sales and remain on salary. The remainder will move to commission if they bump Commission Salespersons. The VP of Advertising has advised us that he will move those jobs to 50% Salary, 50% Commission from the current 100% Commission.

However, the details of the commission plan is not yet known. The company has agreed that it will not force bumping into Commissioned Sales before full details of the new commission plan, including account lists and targets, are known. Since the most senior affected employees will be involved in this business, no other bumping can be done until this new commission pay process is finished.

Whew! We told you this is complicated. We have also asked the company for assistance in setting up an employment Action Centre, as we established at the Guild office at Queen St. and Leslie during the last round of Circulation department outsourcing.

Finally, there are a number of legal issues outstanding. These relate to how our Collective Agreement language applies to the particular circumstances of each of these layoff notices. We are reviewing everything with our lawyers, and will take every available action to assist our colleagues and friends.

These are trying, even scary times. We need more than ever to stick together, to support our shared efforts as both Guild members and loyal Star employees. Please don't be shy about letting us know what we can do to assist you, our colleagues and our great newspaper.

Hang in there!

Your Star Guild executive:
Maureen Dawson
Dan Smith
Elizabeth Marzari
Cathie Nichols

(March 10, 2009)


Starting to pay
for Rob's package

A quarter of advertising staff
receive layoff notices

Some staff hit in
other departments too

Somebody has to pay for the millions in outgoing CEO Rob Prichard's obscene golden parachute. We just didn't think it would be so many of us, so soon.

As Prichard sits up on the sixth floor of 1 Yonge counting his $8 million in wholly undeserved goodbye money, layoff notices were going out this afternoon to roughly one-quarter of the Star's unionized Advertising staff.

While the situation this morning was still chaotic, with company plans seeming to change by the hour, we do know that as many as 38 Advertising staff will get layoff notices. As many as 9 union staff in other departments may also get their layoff notices this afternoon, or in coming days. We wish we could be more precise but that's all the information we have at the moment. We will let you know the details and our plan to deal with this as soon as possible.

We can tell you that the company did not wait to consider the benefit of some of the cost-saving ideas we've already raised - things such as volunteer job-sharing, volunteer 4-day weeks and other measures. The company did not wait to consider Guild ideas for new revenue or other cost-saving measures, which we had been hoping to develop with your help.

Instead, with this first pre-emptive strike, our paper's new management is signalling that it is going to run a much leaner, meaner Toronto Star. These layoffs are, to use Human Resources-speak, 'structural.' These are permanent job losses, whatever rebound we all hope for in the economy. These jobs are not coming back, no matter what we do this month.

What further disturbs us this morning is the fact the company has no clear plan for Advertising, no blueprint on how we can thrive in future despite that vital department's much smaller staff numbers. Our collective welfare depends so much on the talents of our friends in Advertising, yet management has no detailed scheme on how we will accomplish more with less. Layoffs first, plan later. This is not encouraging, and doesn't bode well for the kind of more co-operative approach we were hoping to build with new Star management.

Rest assured we will do our very best to help our friends deal with these layoffs. This is going to be a particuarly complicated chore in Advertising, with its mix of salary and commission pay, and will take some time to manage properly.

Again, we will update you once we have the full picture of today's unwelcome events. In the meantime, if you see Rob around, say thanks.

In solidarity, your Guild executive:
Maureen Dawson
Dan Smith
Elizabeth Marzari
Cathie Nichols

(March 4, 2009)


Best of times,
Worst of times

Employees pleased to see changes,
new CEO coming at last

Guild will press case
of the great value
of our loyal workforce

So Rob Prichard is gone at last. After more than five years of bad decision after bad decision, we are soon to be rid of his disastrous time as CEO of Torstar. This is a good, necessary thing.

Our relief carries a combination of disbelief and anger that only grew over the weekend. Many of you told us you were experiencing the same conflicted emotions. By Friday afternoon and into the weekend, the small-print realization that it will cost our company another $11 million to see the last of Prichard - that he will leave in May with something around $8 million in his pocket, after receiving roughly $2.5 million a year the past five years - well, that just takes our breath away.

This is obscene. How could our board of directors have approved such an arrangement? The money being spent on Prichard is, for example, 110 well-paying jobs - the very kind of jobs that Bay St. analysts are urging the company to reduce in the coming days and weeks.

Prichard wouldn't even talk to a Toronto Star reporter last week to defend his millions, although he did have time to be interviewed by the Globe and Mail.

Your Guild leadership pledges to do everything possible to reduce the impact of any short-sighted job reductions being considered by our new corporate leaders. We pledge, with your help, to identify smarter ways of running our business.

We take heart in some of the statements last week from our new publisher, John Cruickshank: "It is our employees who are the key ingredient that will enable the Star to reposition itself at this critical time and remain one of the world's top news organizations for years to come." Exactly.

Meanwhile, as you consider the events of the coming days and weeks, and join us in making every appropriate effort we can to support the Toronto Star, its Atkinson Principles and everything they stand for, think of this parting statement to staff from our friend "Rob":

"I will watch with pride from the sidelines as Torstar moves forward, grateful forever for the association with all of you."

Shame.

Maureen Dawson
and the rest of your Guild executive

(March 2, 2009)


Results of the Toronto Star Unit
General Meeting

The Toronto Star Unit General Meeting was held at lunch time on Thursday, January 29, 2009. Nominations for the Election Committee as well as the Unit Executive were held. The results are:

Unit Election Committee:Lester Veszlenyi
 Joanne Georgopoulos
 Graham Morton
 Gillian Taylor
 Gus Miranda
 
Unit Chair:Maureen Dawson.
 
Vice-Chair:Dan Smith
 
Secretary:Liz Marzari
 
Membership Secretary:Cathie Nichols

There were 10 people nominated for the 5 available positions on Representative Council. We will be holding a Unit Election for these positions in mid-March. The Chair and Vice-Chair are automatically given a spot on the Rep Council for a total of 7 positions.

This year there will also be an election for President of the Local. Brad Honywill from the Toronto Sun Unit and Terri Monture from NOW Magazine are running for the position. Both candidates were present to speak to the members. This election will also be held in mid-March. Details on how the voting will be conducted will be decided within the next month.

I would like to make you all aware of the fact that I will be supporting Terri Monture for President. I believe it is time for a fresh start and that we need a more inclusive President for this local as we move through these troubling times in the newspaper industry. I am happy to discuss this issue with any and all of you in the coming weeks.

Thanks to all who attended today and thanks for allowing me to represent you for another year.

Maureen Dawson
Unit Chair
Toronto Star
maureen@song.on.ca
416-861-1197


Toronto Star Unit General Meeting

Date: Thursday, January 29, 2009

Time: 12 noon

Place: 3rd Floor Auditorium

Agenda:

  • Nominations for Unit Election Committee
  • Nominations for Unit Executive
  • Nominations for Rep Council
  • Other Business
  • Please make every effort to attend this important Unit meeting.

    Maureen Dawson
    Unit Chair

    (January 13, 2009)


    Operation Christmas Cheer

    Help make Christmas brighter for the families
    of striking and locked out workers

    With the economy in rough shape this will be a difficult Christmas for many. It will be that much more difficult for the 107 CEP Local 132-0 workers and their families who have been on strike against Korex for over 5 months over company demands for serious concessions. Korex is housed in the former Lever Bros. building at the bottom of the DVP at Lakeshore. Many of you may have passed their picket line on the way to work.

    Operation Christmas Cheer has been working to give striking/locked out workers' families a traditional Christmas dinner and toys for 5 years. Our Local, CEP 87-M, has offered to be a depot for the donations for these workers. As well, the Representative Council voted on November 19 to make a $1,000 cash donation towards buying grocery gift cards for the families. The Local Executive also encouraged individual units to consider their own fundraiser to help our brothers and sisters.

    That's where you come in - on Thursday, December 11 we are asking everyone to dig into their pockets and donate what you can to help make Christmas a little more fun for the families of the strikers at Korex. There will be decorated jars in each of the departments at 1 Yonge Street. Members in the Zone offices and Bureaus are asked to send funds to my attention. If you want to send a cheque it can be made out to Operation Christmas Cheer.

    All the monies will be used for the striking workers. Christmas Cheer packages will be delivered to the picket line on Tuesday, December 23 at a rally from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Your Unit Executive will be in attendance. Any others who are able to come are encouraged to attend.

    All donations are gratefully appreciated - let's make those jars jingle!!!

    Maureen Dawson
    Unit Chair
    (on behalf of your Unit Executive)

    (December 8, 2008)


    Torstar Policy Training Revisited

    Your Union has been in discussions with the company about the Torstar Policy "training" that was sent by email to the membership over a week ago. At that time we asked you to hold off on taking the policy "training" until we could get a legal opinion on what the consequences would be.

    The company has now revised the rollout of the "training" and another email will be sent to you to follow the new procedure. You will be asked to read the policies only. You will not have to take a quiz, sign the policy or have to confirm that you were sufficiently trained or fully understood the policies. Instead, in departmental meetings, you will be asked verbally by management to confirm that you took the "training". End of story.

    We have agreed that this will be acceptable. If you are asked to do any more than confirm that you read it, please politely refuse to answer and inform your manager you will need to speak to your union steward before going any further.

    Some of you did complete the "training" and signed off on it before our bulletin came out. On this issue, we have agreement from the company that this will not be relied on in the future - in other words it won't be used against you.

    If you have any further questions or concerns please contact myself or your Chief Steward.

    Maureen Dawson
    Unit Chair
    maureen@song.on.ca
    416-209-6967

    (November 20, 2008)


    Torstar Policy Training

    By now all of you will have received an email from Management asking that you complete online training on Torstar policies by month's end, and that you agree to abide by these new policies. Your Union was not given the courtesy of a head's up on this so-called "training" or the policies. After a cursory look at the policies we have some serious concerns about having the membership complete this "training". We are in the process of getting a detailed legal analysis of the policies and "training" to see how they could potentially affect you. Please hold off on going through the "training" or signing anything until we are clear on what you have been asked to do.

    Maureen Dawson
    Unit Chair

    (November 11, 2008)


    General Membership Meeting

    A General Membership Meeting of CEP Local 87-M SONG will be held on:

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
    at 1:00 p.m.
    (at the beginning of the Rep. Council meeting)
    at the
    UNION OFFICE
    1253 Queen Street E.
    (at Leslie)

    The following will be included in the agenda-

    • Election of the Election Committee (5 positions)
    • Other Business

    SONG has a policy of reimbursing members who attend union meetings for their related childcare expenses at the rate of up to $8.00 an hour. We require a receipt.

    Brad Honywill
    President
    ed.cope.343

    (November 2008)


    A Fresh Start

    The upheaval in senior management ranks at the Toronto Star has peaked with the departure of the publisher. With no VP of advertising for some time, now an interim publisher, and apparently the launch of a search for a permanent publisher, there is a vacuum at the top that needs to be addressed.

    You are all aware of the acute problems we face. Your union has repeatedly attempted to bring your concerns about the shortcomings in Advertising, Editorial and other departments to the attention of senior management. Those efforts fell on deaf ears.

    Now, it appears, we have another opportunity to bring your experience and commitment to this critical debate of what The Star must do to tackle our many challenges. We encourage you to take up CEO Prichard's invitation to raise your voices. As a union, we intend to do the same.

    We are hopeful that a fresh start will allow all of us, loyal employees and union, to play a stronger role in rebuilding our paper, inside and out. With committed leadership that values the contributions of those who have built The Star, we are confident a better way forward can be found.

    Maureen Dawson
    Unit Chair
    on behalf of your Guild executive

    (October 2008)


    Layoffs in Advertising

    Guild meeting with employees,
    company to consider options

    Unit Chair vows best efforts
    to help all find new work
    and fair treatment

    It is with deep regret that we have only begun the crucial fall sales season and are already dealing with layoff notices for some of our long-serving employees in Advertising. It appears that 11 members, including nine sales co-ordinators, will be affected.

    "Perhaps this will be the catalyst for senior Star management to give more consideration to staff concerns with regards to existing sales programs and new initiatives that clearly aren't working," says Unit Chair Maureen Dawson.

    Dawson is to meet with affected members Wednesday, September 17, before the union begins talks with the company in a bid to create the widest set of options for all.

    "We'll do everything we can to achieve the best outcome for everybody," says Dawson. "They deserve the best their union, and the Star, can deliver."

    Maureen Dawson
    Unit Chair
    and the rest of your Guild executive

    (September 2008)


    A Paper in Peril

    Read the complete PDF (Apr. 30, 2008)

    Torstar annual meeting
    Guild executives and activists took your rising alarm at Star management's stewardship of our newspaper to Torstar shareholders and directors today. We attended Torstar Corp.'s annual meeting to raise your concerns about business decisions that risk weakening the precious Star brand, are pounding staff morale and have damaged the quality of our paper, We urged shareholders and directors to call top company managers to account, to demand that Torstar's flagship, Toronto's community trust and the Atkinson Principles be protected.

    Wise, steady leadership needed
    We all know our industry faces major challenges, We know you are prepared to face that challenge with a willingness to change and a deep commitment to the Star, as you demonstrated in our new contract. But big management decisions are disturbing. Why Torstar directors think CEO Rob Prichard's bonus last year deserved to be doubled to nearly $1.5 million - when we haven't had a raise above inflation since the 1980s - is a complete mystery. To highlight just a few of the questionable recent decisions under his watch:

    • This month the Star stunned the advertising industry's top ad buyers by announcing it was abandoning the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the newspaper industry standard, for a less reputable Canadian alternative, The Globe and Canwest papers are staying with ABC. Ad buyers have been denouncing the Star move since, saying they will no longer be able to trust our numbers, This is helpful?
    • Our clumsy introduction of modular advertising and sectional pricing has also damaged our relationship with advertisers, Just ask anybody in our frustrated advertising department what their year has been like so far.
    • On the crucial digital front, we seem determined to turn much of the operational decision-making - and our work - over to Torstar Digital and the sales group Olive Network. These outfits have damaged the Star's digital efforts and revenue, at our considerable expense.

    You've brought many other questionable business decisions to our attention, We need smarter, calmer leadership at the very top.

    Trust evaporates
    We began this year by avoiding a ruinous strike through a new contract that included huge work changes in Pre-press and Editorial. We are already regretting some of those decisions, for senior Star management has broken faith with us on those contract terms across the board.

    • In Editorial, the company claims that we gave it the right to assign freelance reporting and photography inside the GTA. This is so wrong. As we told you clearly at our ratification meeting, we outright refused to surrender your job security this way. Yet management is now busy assigning stories and photos - our work - to local freelancers every day. We've grieved this of course, among numerous grievances we've been forced to launch since bargaining. This base betrayal by senior management of our good-faith attempt to compromise for the sake of our paper's welfare is just the top of a long list of company actions that show contempt for you and your union.
    • In both Editorial and Pre-Press, promised top-drawer training to handle massive job change and reorganization has so far been a mirage. In Pre-Press, for example, all we've seen so far is "peer-to-peer" training plans - hardly the comprehensive effort we were promised.
    • In the past month, a dozen loyal Star employees in our digital production areas and Newspaper in Education units have been given layoff notices. These sad moves also mean a new burden of production work onto untrained, already stressed staff in Editorial, and can only damage our efforts to promote the newspaper habit with students. This is investing in our future?

    Again, we could go on for pages about the many problems we are facing. Instead of seeing us as a valuable partner in meeting our paper's many challenges, senior management is treating your union - and your colleagues - as a burdensome commodity that can be ignored or attacked. There is no loyalty here, and these kind of running disputes only hurts our paper. We are bitterly disappointed at what has been happening.

    "Good enough" is not good enough
    Management is spending a ton of dough on consultants in Advertising (Mercer) and Editorial (Star Navigator). What a diverting use of so much time and serious money. We think cultural change begins at home, and at the top. Here's an alternative: Start respecting the online staff who know customer needs best. Stop managing from the top down. Recognize that the quality of our newspaper should be Job One, not the kind of "good enough" approach that employees agree is eroding the quality of our newspaper - for readers and advertisers. Lead our transition from print to print and digital with clarity and vision instead of confusion, secrecy and hocery.

    This is the challenge we've issued to shareholders, directors and senior managers. We hope they're listening.

    Maureen Dawson, unit chair
    And the rest of your Guild stewards and executive


    Song Service Award

    Our Local gives out an annual award to recognize the work of members on behalf of the Union. The Fred Jones Memorial SONG Service Award honours the memory of Fred Jones, who passed away in 1988. Fred, as a reporter at the Toronto Telegram, was a key organizer when SONG was establishing itself at the three Toronto dailies in the 1950's. He served as Local president from 1954-1956 and then served on the Local's staff and on the staff of The Newspaper Guild, our former parent union, for many years.

    Any member who has served during 2007 in an unpaid capacity as a local or unit officer, or in other responsible positions such as steward or committee member, is eligible to be nominated. Nominations must be made by two members in writing and include a detailed description of the achievements and qualifications of the candidate. Please deliver nominations to the SONG office by mail or fax (416-461-5058) or e-mail to eva@song.on.ca by Friday May 30th. Nominations should be addressed to Brad Honywill, SONG President.

    Nominees will be judged on their achievements within the local or their unit, in serving the Union's fundamental purposes, such as organizing, bargaining, the development of a strong local or unit, human rights, health and safety, etc. The Executive Committee will choose the member who will receive the award.

    The award is a scholarship of up to $1,500 to cover the expenses and lost wages associated with attending a union educational program such as the CLC Summer School or any similar program of labour education.

    We encourage nominations. Think about which of your fellow members deserve to be honoured for their work on behalf of SONG.

    Brad Honywill
    President
    ed/cope.343

    (April 2008)


    The torstar.com Ten

    Read the complete PDF (Apr. 9, 2008)

    Layoff notices
    We were saddened but not shocked to learn this week that Star management is laying off our 10 members in torstar.com. These are the production folks who work on our online paper. As you may recall from bargaining, they were brought into our main contract in January. Now they are to be gone by early July.

    There to help
    We'll be meeting extensively with affected members and the company, beginning next week. We promise our best efforts to either help them find good jobs elsewhere at The Star, or to achieve the best severence packages we can negotiate. They've earned it.

    Jobs available
    As the company itself has noted, there should be openings in not just Editorial but also Advertising and perhaps elsewhere for the kind of skill sets and ongoing work needs these folks have been using online. We expect Star management to be creative and flexible in maximizing chances for new jobs. We expect the torstar.com ten to be shown the same kind of loyalty they've demonstrated for years.

    Who runs our Web site?
    We will oppose any attempt by management to just dump this work onto other employees. We will certainly fight any attempt to send the work of the torstar.com ten outside the building - to Torstar Digital or the Olive Network, for example. And we will be pushing for the creation of a coherent, sensible vision of our future online that we can all support.

    Unit chair Maureen Dawson
    and the rest of your Guild executive


    Strange doings in Advertising

    STAR BULLETIN #1 We learned late last week that the Star has hired an outside consultant to conduct a sweeping review of compensation in the Advertising department. This comes as a rude surprise, as we asked repeatedly during bargaining if any such activities were planned for the department. We weren't told a thing about this. Read more of Star Bulletin #1 (Feb. 11, 2008)


    Thank You

    We have a tentative agreement, reached at 2pm on Saturday after days of round-the-clock bargaining with the mediator.

    We're sure you've heard by now that our tentative agreement has been ratified by a vote of 86% last Friday. We're grateful that so many of you apparently agree we did all we could do without a vicious labour disruption, and regret that we didn't meet the expectations of all.


    QUESTIONS? If you can't find the answers to your questions here, please email your question to info@wearethestar.ca (NOTE: please contact us using a personal email address; do not use your work email. If you do not have a personal email, then please provide us with a phone number where we can contact you.)

Guild Bargaining Committee: Unit Chair: Maureen Dawson
Editorial: Dan Smith and Valerie Hauch (alternate) Circulation: Steve Gjorkes and Jeff Bodrucky (alternate)
Finance: Cathie Nichols and Dawn Armstrong (alternate) Advertising: Elizabeth Marzari and Dijana Maderic (alternate)
Thestar.com: Craig Wattie and Tony Camara (alternate) Pre-Press: Lester Veszlenyi and Lorraine Wohlgemuth (alternate)