MONTREAL - Described by some journalists as a tough pill to swallow, some 250 unionized workers from the Journal de Montreal, who have been locked out for over two years due to a labour dispute, have accepted a new contract offer.

Following hours of closed-door meetings at the Palais des congrès Saturday with the Syndicat des travailleurs de l'information du Journal de Montréal, 64.1 per cent of workers voted in favour of the new deal.

Despite the majority, many union members say they are disappointed and the agreement was a victory for their owner, Quebecor.

"That's two years of my life that's finally over," said sports reporter Jonathon Bernier.

"Some people suffered depression other people had to sell their house."

Quebecor has offered to keep on 62 employees, including part-time workers.

Of the 62, 24 are said to be journalists.

Arts reporter Dominic Fugere said he said no regrets about the labour dispute and fight to save jobs.

"They (employees) were basically thrown out of a job after giving 30-35 years of their lives to the Journal," he said.

Quebecor claims during the lockout, readership of the Journal de Montreal increased and the daily newspaper kept its advertisers.

Pierre Karl Peladeau, the chief executive of Quebecor, recently defended the lockout, dismissing the suggestion its flagship publication only survived by circumventing anti-strikebreaker laws.

The publication printed articles written by Quebecor-owner news agencies and other news groups.

Rue Frontenac to continue

Meantime, the locked-out workers have been running an online newspaper, Rue Frontenac, which has also published a weekly print edition in recent months.

Several workers vowed to continue operating Rue Frontenac despite the new agreement.

Severance pay is estimated at $20 million.

Journalist Valerie Dufour called the deal a "cold shower," but acknowledged that the locked out employees are not all in the same situation.

Last October, workers voted 89.3 per cent against a previous offer.

Dufour said the latest offer from Quebecor is not much better than the one they rejected in the fall.

"Still, the labour conflict has lasted two years," she told The Canadian Press. "There are people on the verge of their retirement. They got an offer in October and decided to back the younger [employees], to back Rue Frontenac. I understand that they are becoming impatient."

With files from The Canadian Press