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TORONTO (Reuters) - The union representing workers at Canada's Globe and Mail has rejected the newspaper's latest offer, but union members will still vote on the deal ahead of next week's strike deadline, union officials said on Friday.
Despite progress on proposed changes to the pension plan, the two sides are still far apart ahead of the contract's expiration on June 30, said Brad Honywill, president of Local 87-M of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents 480 editorial, advertising and circulation workers at the national paper.
"They've now budged, but it's still a bad deal," he said.
Workers voted last week to authorize the union to call a strike if it fails to negotiate a new contract.
The main stumbling blocks have been wages, which the paper wants to freeze for the first two years of the contract, and changing the pension plan from a defined benefit system to a defined employee-contribution plan, Honywill said.
The Globe said in a statement it has adjusted its position and is now offering to allow current employees to stay on a defined benefit system, although with higher contributions.
Also, it is now proposing a five-year contract, instead of its previous proposal for a six-year deal, Honywill said.
He said that despite the bargaining committee's rejection of the deal, the union will members to vote on the Globe's offer on Saturday.
"The bargaining committee has rejected it, but the bargaining committee is taking it to the membership so the membership can have a say in it," he said.
Honywill said a strike is not a foregone conclusion even if the two sides are unable to come to an agreement. Work to rule is also a possibility, he said.
The company, a division of CTVglobemedia, also said it told workers it would implement the terms of its offer on July 1.
"The Globe and Mail has chosen this step of implementing its final position in negotiations because it is resolved to make the necessary changes to the agreements in order for the Globe and Mail to succeed in the future," the paper said.
It said it expects to continue publishing the paper and updating its websites in the event of a strike or lockout.
CTVglobemedia is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan; Torstar Corp, which publishes the Toronto Star newspaper; BCE Inc, parent of Bell Canada; and the Woodbridge Co, an investment vehicle for Canada's billionaire Thomson family. Woodbridge is also the biggest shareholder of Thomson Reuters.
Many newspapers and media companies have seen their fortunes turn sour as the economy went into recession and advertisers slashed spending.
To cope with the downturn, media groups have laid off staff and sought salary, benefit and other concessions from their remaining employees.
The Globe has not been immune. In January, it revealed plans to cut about 80 jobs through layoffs and voluntary severance.
Additional reporting by Frank McGurty; editing by Peter Galloway