mardi 28 juillet 2009

The future of Le Journal de Montréal

The future of the Journal de Montreal, the legendary No.1, is rather confusing!

The current labor dispute and lockout declared by the management shall ensure that the newspaper continues to be published by the management on the one hand, and on the other, unionized employees receive 76.2% of their pay through their strike fund. They can hold out financially for more than 2 years, according to the union president, Raynald Leblanc.
Negotiation is the art to manage people and one can compare this action to the sport of golf where the personality of each individual plays a significant role and influence the final result. (Tiger Wood has already said that golf is a mirror of the soul of the player and his reflection is ruthless ...)
In my opinion, the best negotiator that the Quebec media world has ever known was the former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who was counsel in labor relations before becoming a politician and Prime Minister. His first mandate was with Paul Desmarais Sr. who was seduced by the dynamism and intelligence of Brian Mulroney. Brian also worked on behalf of Pierre Péladeau when negotiating the first collective agreement for the Journal de Montreal in the late 1960s. Péladeau and Mulroney thereafter became friends and they stayed close to each other until the death of the founder of Quebecor in 1998.

I had the opportunity to meet a former director of Le Nouvelliste Trois-Rivières (GESCA), now deceased, Charles D'amour. After retiring from Nouvelliste, he was mandated in 1984 by a group from Moncton to launch a new daily to replace Evangeline. It is in this project that I have known Charles D'Amour. One day he told me the following anecdote that demonstrates very well the talent as negotiator of Mulroney.

Brian Mulroney had to settle a labor dispute between Power Corp. and the union Nouvelliste. The day before the first meeting between the two parties, Brian telephoned the union representative on the pretext of asking if he could travel in his car from Montreal to Trois-Rivières, to save the gazoline of one of two cars ...
The plan was, however, more calculated. Mulroney wanted to learn more about the union and discuss with he representative about his claims. The discussion was very fruitful because once arrived in Trois-Rivieres, the two travelers had agreed on all points, so that when Brian came into the office of the publisher (Charles D'Amour), who was expecting a tough negotiation, he was instead presented with an agreement ready for signature. The conflict was resolved during the short trip of an hour and a half between Montreal and Trois-Rivières.

According to Brian Mulroney, a good negotiator must first analyze the personality of the two opponents. Who is the union representative and what kind of personality does he have? It is the same exercise with the leader employer and the negociator must try to find common ground to open the dialogue and get commitments. Only after analyzing the characters, can we address the issue as such, which is ultimately less important than the human personalities involved. (As in the golf game…).

At the Journal de Montreal, it is clear that Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Raynald Leblanc (President of the union employees) have no points in common, or mutual sympathy.

Pierre-Karl is a predator accustomed to the harsh business environment, while Raynald is a photographer led by its nature, to be gentle with the subjects he has to take picture. I know well Raynald LeBlanc and I have worked with him when he was the photographer for an edition of the Annual Report of Quebecor for which I was responsible. This is a very good guy but he has not the stuff to cross swords with the Knights of finance.

The previous conflicts in the Journal de Montreal have always been resolved because the dialogue between interlocutors was equal to the level of personalities. “Street fighters” on both sides of the table! (The actions were much more rough than simply come and say hello at the premises of the company headquarters ...)

It is likely that the conflict in the Journal de Montreal will go for a long time and that ultimately, Quebecor will merge the bulk of the Journal to bring it closer to the world of Internet and Videotron. A merger with the daily 24 hours would not be illogical.

If I were the president of the union, I would try to convince Brian Mulroney, or another of his rank, to serve as a partner and negotiator. This is the only chance for the employees.

The negotiator will discover that employees have a card (an ace of hearts) in their game that can convince Pierre-Karl that there is a hidden value in the union coffers and if he does not recover it quickly, others could swap it and do like his father Pierre had done during the strike at the Montreal Matin and create a new empire. This hidden value is the website Rue Frontenac and his team. If an investor, enemy of Pierre-Karl or someone wanting to compete at Quebecor, seized it, he could then create a new leader in the information business. Currently, with very little means, Rue Frontenac has become a News site in Montreal, both liked and respected as well as the other sites that are Cyberpresse, Le Devoir and Canoe.

Good luck to the employees and may the best man win!

Bernard Bujold

Photo 1: Le Journal de Montréal, Pierre Péladeau,Pierre-Karl Péladeau, Brian Mulroney et Raynald Leblanc;Photo 2: Pierre Péladeau au golf
Link to English translation of this article)
Lien site Canoë - Journal de Montréal
Lien site Rue Frontenac

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