News Leader Pictorial staffhit the picket line

Twelve employees at the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial newspaper in Duncan took to the picket lines on Monday in a dispute over proposed changes to their pay structure.

The strike is about blocking the implementation of a two-tier wage system by management, said Unifor Local 2000 representative Peter McQuade.

Right now, employees’ wages increase over time through a classification system. Management is trying to get rid of the top wage classifications for any new employees coming in, McQuade said.

"They want to take all the highest pay rates and classifications and eliminate them, so that any future employees never make that amount of money," he said.

Employees voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action.

McQuade said it was possible the paper would not be able to put out an edition for Wednesday, and the cancellation of the mid-week edition was confirmed Monday afternoon by advertisers. McQuade had no indication when the strike might be over.

"We might be in for a long dispute," he said.

In spite of sub-zero temperatures on the picket line, "they’re in good spirits," McQuade said. "At least the sun is shining."

Calls to the News Leader Pictorial’s editor and publisher were not returned by press time, but Randy Blair of Black Press told Chek News that unionized employees at the paper enjoy "a very good wage rate for this market area," and that it’s important for the company to stay competitive.