Toronto Star, union compromise on digital hires

Photo courtesy of Michelle-Andrea Girouard 

By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

Photo courtesy of Michelle-Andrea Girouard 

By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

The Toronto Star has reached a compromise with the union on its controversial plan to hire digital reporters at “market-based salaries.” The union claimed the lesser pay grade led to a devaluation of digital journalism and a two-tiered pay scale.   

Under the new agreement, the company will no longer be making “digital reporter” hires under a separate job classification. Instead, all new reporting hires will be made temporary, lesser-paid jobs under the existing journalist classification and then renegotiated when the current contract agreement expires in 2016.

The company’s idea that these digital hires would be shielded from layoffs is also off the table. Under the new agreement, editorial staff in other jobs can now bump the new digital hires if they are qualified. 

The union sees this as a “step in the right direction,” said Liz Marzari, the Unifor unit chair at the Toronto Star.

“The biggest win for us was the digital reporter category … there shouldn’t be a separate digital reporter classification when all journalists are doing digital work,” Marzari said. The company has already hired five digital staff, including one video producer, two social media assistants and two video editors.

The union and the company also agreed to a working committee, made up of management and union members, which will look at the Star’s digital strategy and develop digital training for staff.

“It gives us the time to figure out what these digital hires mean, and when we go into bargaining in 2016, we’ll all be better informed,” Marzari said. “It’s not a perfect deal, but we made progress.”

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