02/22/2015 11:36 EST | Updated 04/24/2015 05:59 EDT

Press operators and mechanics locked out at Halifax's Chronicle Herald

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's largest newspaper has locked out its unionized printing plant employees after contract negotiations failed to reach an agreement.

Thirteen press operators and mechanics at the Halifax Chronicle Herald were locked out Saturday, the company said in a news release. It said the employees had turned down a proposal from management.

The proposal included concessions on retirement and job security but did not include cuts to pay or benefits, the company's statement said.

The workers' union said the employees had already agreed to negotiate concessions when they were locked out.

The employees decided they were willing to take monetary concessions shortly before the lockout, the Halifax Typographical Union said in a news release.

"I have never heard of a company locking out workers offering to negotiate concessions," said Martin O'Hanlon, president of the union's parent organization, CWA Canada.

The union said the Chronicle Herald wants to freeze wages in a four-year agreement. It also says the company is seeking concessions on early retirement that would contradict a binding commitment from 2007.

The company said it needed concessions because it is dealing with a decline in advertising and circulation revenue.

"We were looking to ensure an agreement that reduced the strain on the company while protecting our employees," company spokeswoman Nancy Cook said in the release.

The statement said the workers' annual pay and benefits are a minimum of $66,000.

The union has said it is willing to return to negotiations immediately, but the company said there are no further meetings scheduled.

The paper printed a statement Friday saying a work stoppage would not affect its daily delivery.

Last fall the Chronicle Herald announced it had given layoff notices to 20 unionized employees. The layoffs were an effort to save money in reaction to a changing industry and a decline in advertising, the paper said at the time.