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Vice Canada Unionizing Effort Comes After U.S. Outlets Organize

12/16/2015 08:06 EST | Updated 12/19/2015 10:59 EST
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Workers at Vice Canada are joining the ranks of U.S.-based media outlets in an effort to start a union.

Staffers with the news organization declared their intention to start one in a press release posted to the website of the Canadian Media Guild on Tuesday.

But Vice Canada employees aren't just looking out for themselves — they also want to help contractors access benefits and other protections.

"We all enjoy working for a place that allows us incredible flexibility, in terms of both what we do and how we do it, and we want a collective agreement that will reflect and keep that freedom."

"We believe that, given the opportunity to negotiate a new contract together (which is what unionizing really entails), we can come up with an agreement that is beneficial to us as employees of Vice, and to Vice management as well," the release said.

Vice Canada's union effort arises out of concerns about a series of issues.

They want "better salaries" (they say that entry-level staffers at other outlets are making around $60,000 in Canada); "better benefits" (they claim that other media outlets offer "more comprehensive" health coverage, vacation time and parental leave); and "protection from being fired without reason for all employees."

The staffers are also looking for better communication and transparency from managers, and "clear journalistic standards."

vice canada homepage

Vice Canada's homepage on Dec. 15, 2015. (Photo: Vice Canada)

"We all enjoy working for a place that allows us incredible flexibility, in terms of both what we do and how we do it, and we want a collective agreement that will reflect and keep that freedom," they say.

The organizing effort comes after employees voted to unionize at outlets including Vice in the U.S., Gawker Media, Salon, Al Jazeera English and The Huffington Post.

Vice Canada staffers are being encouraged to sign union cards, and to come to a meeting in Toronto on Wednesday night where they'll discuss what it means to unionize in more detail.

The union will only become official after organizers make a formal application to a labour board. And that will only happen if a majority of Vice Canada staff votes in favour of establishing one.

shane smith vice

Vice founder and CEO Shane Smith, far right, speaks at the Google presents YouTube Brandcast event at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo: Taylor Hill/Film Magic via Getty Images)

While Vice employees are currently examining the benefits of joining a union, elsewhere some media are trying to cut ties with organized labour.

Last week, Hamilton TV station CHCH announced it would cut local news programming as the company that ran that sector of its business filed for bankruptcy.

CHCH's parent company Channel Zero also announced it would eliminate 150 jobs, although 81 of those people would be offered employment with a new entity, CBC News reported.

Jobs were cut so that the new company would be "free of old Union employees and their demands," said an email from CHCH account manager Kathleen Marks that was leaked to media.

CHCH spokeswoman Sarah Louise Gardiner, however, told CBC News that Marks' email reflected only "one person's opinion," and not that of station leadership.

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