HALIFAX (CP) — The Nova Scotia government has called for an inquiry into the 18-month-old labour dispute between the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Canada's largest independently owned daily newspaper, and the union that represents the paper's editorial staff.
Derek Mombourquette, the province's acting labour minister, confirmed Thursday that an industrial inquiry commission is set to begin work next month.
“There seems to be no end in sight to this dispute,” he said after a provincial cabinet meeting. “We wanted both parties to come to the table and figure out a solution to the dispute, but now that it has gone on this long we felt like it was time to take action.”
The two sides are expected to meet in early August for a mediated discussion with commissioner William Kaplan, who was most recently appointed by the federal government to mediate the Canada Post dispute.
If a voluntary agreement can't be reached, however, Kaplan will investigate the causes of the dispute and report his findings and potential recommendations to the minister.
The process is non-binding and does not guarantee a deal will be reached.
About 60 reporters, photographers, editors and support staff walked off the job on Jan. 23, 2016, over a list of contract concessions that management said were needed to cope with economic challenges affecting the North American newspaper industry.
Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, said the government's move was in response to the union's fourth application for an inquiry.
“I guess the fourth time is the charm,” she said. “We're pretty relieved. This is a bit of a bright light in this long dispute.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie criticized the timing of the inquiry.
“This should have happened a long time ago,” he said, noting that the province's Liberal party won a second consecutive majority government less than two months ago. “The election is over, that's what's changed. Clearly (Premier) Stephen McNeil did not want the Herald to be at full strength during the election.”
Still, Baillie said he's hopeful the inquiry will help resolve the dispute.
“I really want to see the Herald back at full strength and I want Nova Scotia to have the benefit of the largest independent newspaper left in Canada when they eat their Cheerios in the morning.”