Penticton editor’s run for city council already under grievance by union | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton editor’s run for city council already under grievance by union

Penticton Herald editor and city councillor James Miller
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ James Miller
June 28, 2021 - 7:00 AM

When Penticton Herald editor James Miller took a leave of absence to run for a city council position, he hired two freelancers to cover his campaign.

At least that’s what he told when he was interviewed on Monday.

READ MORE: How Penticton’s newest city councillor plans to keep day job as newspaper editor

What he didn’t say is that reporter Joe Fries, who normally covers city council, was the only staff member trained and able to cover his position. That meant that those freelancers not only covered the byelection but other Penticton news that Fries no longer had time to cover, although he did write some news stories during that time.

What Miller also didn’t say was that Fries’ union, Unifor Local 2000, filed a grievance against the company for hiring those freelancers.

The union has Tweeted its concern about the fact that Fries will now be reporting on Miller’s efforts as a city councillor.

“How does the council reporter or layout editor, our member, cover a meeting in which his boss is involved?” one Tweet asked. “The election caught the attention of other media. They're raising questions, too.”

Fries, who is a member of the union’s executive board, raised his concerns during an executive board meeting on Wednesday.

“We had quite a discussion on what we should do about this so we thought Tweeting a position, at least, would be a start,” Local 2000 President Brian Gibson told today, July 25. “This is a first for us. There’s nowhere currently where you have a councillor being the managing editor of the newspaper in the same town.”

Given how unusual this situation is, Gibson doesn’t know what the outcome of a grievance might be if Fries is disciplined for what he writes about Miller or whether any discipline could even be traced to his writing.

Gibson understands that David Radler, who owns the newspaper, approved of Miller running for election. Miller did tell that Radler had agreed with him running but there are guidelines in place over what he can do. He also said there will be another discussion with his bosses before the 2022 full municipal election.

It’s not clear how long it will take for the freelance grievance to work its way through the legal system. The collective agreement expired in Penticton in May so Gibson expects this to be a bargaining issue when they get to that table. No dates have been set for bargaining.

While there is no language in the collective agreement covering this situation, there is a clause in a different collective agreement Local 2000 has with the Black Press group in the Lower Mainland that says, if a union member gets elected to any public office, their employment will be terminated.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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