Lockout looms at TVA

Breakdown in talks puts cloud over Quebec's top network. Company already training replacements, union claims.

Quebecor appears poised to lock out 800 workers following a breakdown in talks with the union that represents staff at its TVA network, LCN and Argent channels.

The company and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 687 abandoned negotiations last week after more than a dozen meetings held, since March and at the former’s request, with the help of a federal mediator.

The union wants Groupe TVA, which is owned by Quebecor, to ‘recuperate’ 130 permanent jobs that have recently been replaced by contract or freelance workers. It also wants the collective agreement to cover all platforms.

‘We want job security for our employees,’ union spokesman Alexandre Boulerice says. ‘We have no jurisdiction on cell phones or on the web. So if content on these platforms starts to be more important than on conventional TV there could be considerable job loss.’

Boulerice notes that, according to federal labor law, an employer requesting mediation is the first step to a lockout.

Groupe TVA could not be reached for comment for this article, but Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau has a long history of lockouts. Two hundred and fifty staff at the Quebecor-owned Journal de Montréal have been locked out for the past 16 months. Péladeau also locked out workers at the Journal de Québec between 2007 and 2008 for 16 months and did the same for one year to Vidéotron employees in 2002. Since 2002, Québecor has resorted to locking out unionized employees 10 times.

Péladeau has said that organized labor has a negative impact on Quebec’s global competitiveness and productivity.

Boulerice alleges that Groupe TVA is training people ‘to fill the jobs that could potentially be abandoned if there is a strike.’ He says CUPE wants to avoid the picket line. ‘We were able to reach a settlement with Quebecor Inc. at the Journal de Québec, and at Videotron. We hope this will happen here as well.’

If negotiations don’t resume in the next few weeks, Groupe TVA could request a lockout and the union a mandate to strike.

Quebecor posted a $277 million profit for 2009, a 47% increase over 2008. In the first quarter of 2010, however, the company’s profits dipped 34%. Groupe TVA reported a first-quarter profit of $1.5 million, down from $6.5 million a year earlier as its advertising revenue slumped with viewers tuning out to watch the Olympic Winter Games on other networks.

From Playback Daily.