MONTREAL - The Gazette, Montreal's largest English-language daily newspaper, locked out approximately 60 mail room and plate-making employees Sunday evening after their latest contract offer was rejected by the union.

The affected employees showed up for their shifts on Sunday only to be told they were not allowed inside.

A small group of the employees gathered in front of the newspaper's NDG printing facility for a nighttime demonstration.

"These two groups have rejected this offer based on the fact of the hours of work, overtime level, and the personnel required to do the work," said Teamsters Union spokesperson Denis Fournier.

The Gazette issued a statement Monday afternoon stating that the labour dispute should not interrupt publishing the newspaper.

"The last contract with this union was signed five years ago and our industry has undergone significant change during that time," said Gazette publisher Alan Allnutt. "Our business simply cannot afford to pay people premium wages unless all their hours are spent on productive work."

The union claims management has explained it needs to downsize by approximately $2 million annually since the print run has dropped over the past few years.

Fournier said the mail room and plate-making employees make up two of the six bargaining units for people who work in production at the newspaper. The other four bargaining units all ratified the latest proposal from management, Fournier said.

The mail room and plate-making units say they want the same conditions that were offered and accepted by other employees, namely the opportunity to work four days a week.

"Management agreed to leave a four-day week in place for the other workers of these certification units, while requiring the shipping and platemaking workers to work five days a week," Fournier said. "But what's good for one group should also be good for the other."

The four bargaining units who ratified their agreements are press operators, handling personnel, machinists and electricians, and maintenance workers.

Fournier says he was happy those four groups were able to come to agreements, and he was particularly pleased with a clause where the newspaper agreed not to outsource printing the newspaper for three years.

The Gazette says it reaches 545,900 Montrealers who read its print and online editions every day.