The votes are in and it is official: Mark Lever is the winner of RankandFile.ca’s Scumbag of the Year award for 2016. Lever, the president and CEO of the Halifax Herald Ltd., eked out victory against a strong field of contenders in our open voting. Each of his competitors would have been a worthy choice. Lever’s victory means two out of three award winners in the annual contest to date have come from Nova Scotia.
Lever has led a vigorous assault on trade unions at the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax. In 2015 the paper locked out its pressroom workers even after they agreed to take concessions. The brutal one month lockout of the 13 printers resulted in harsh concessions. In 2016 the paper demanded sweeping concessions from Herald’s reporters, editors, photographers, columnists and support staff. Lever demanded a 17 per cent wage cut, a staffing reduction of 30 per cent, and removal of gender parity in the hiring process. The 61 workers, represented by the Halifax Typographical Union, offered a five percent wage cut, and a corresponding wage freeze to ward off a strike. Lever rejected the union’s offer, forcing them out on strike in January 23.
The strike has been, by any measure, brutal. Expecting a long drawn-out strike, Lever and his management team planned early on to use scab labour. The prolonged use of scab labour to replace reporters, photographers and editors has meant the leading paper in Nova Scotia has not been producing anything remotely close to journalism. While this has provided many comical moments – like when the paper misspelled its own name – it has also seriously damaged the public good in the province. Luckily the striking workers have set up their own news website, the Local Xpress, to fill the need for quality reporting.
As the strike wore on, Mark Lever only hardened his stance towards the union.
In September Lever announced he was shutting down the Cape Breton Star, the company’s weekly publication on the island,
citing the company had “come up against a prevailing headwind of union sympathy in industrial Cape Breton.” In October he demanded further cuts to sick leave, wages, the closure of the Local Xpress, and even more layoffs.
The sum total of his actions have amounted to outright union busting. It has been nearly a year that workers at the Chronicle Herald newspaper have been on strike and the province has been without a major source of journalism. Lever’s union busting tactics have been part of a larger assault on trade union rights and benefits in the province led by 2014’s Scumbag of the Year, Stephen McNeil. Lever’s naked assault on journalism and trade unionism has made him our reader’s choice for 2016’s Scumbag of the Year. You can tweet this award to @.
Essex County Library Board – A close second, this board’s sustained attack on library workers could have easily won this year’s award.