Employees at the Montreal Gazette rejected the latest contract offer from their employer, Canwest, at a general meeting on Sunday.

The Montreal Newspaper Guild, the union representing Gazette employees, has had a strike mandate since last September, but even after Sunday's vote, there are no immediate plans to stop publishing the paper.

Union members in the Editorial and Reader Sales and Services departments voted overwhelmingly against management's offer, fearing that the new four-year contract would lead to the outsourcing of work to Hamilton, Ontario.

"People who are not from Montreal, who don't understand our culture and don't understand our priorities, will be putting together parts of the newspaper," said Irwin Block, vice-president of the union.

Last year, more than 40 positions at The Gazette were eliminated, and employees are concerned that there will be a further reduction in staffing levels.

"If we take this hit now and give away jurisdiction, then clearly there will be 25 people left at The Gazette within five years, and all 52 newspapers in the chain will be exactly the same everyday of the week," said Allen McInnis, a Gazette photographer.

About 190 Gazette employees have been without a contract since June 1, 2008.

They are hoping a new round of negotiations will break the stalemate.

Management at The Gazette had no immediate comment.