Postmedia Network, having just slashed scores of jobs in editorial and advertising departments across the former Canwest chain, is now turning its sights on the newspapers’ business offices.
The new company’s owners plan to begin centralizing the finance departments’ functions in Toronto and Winnipeg by the end of January. Staff reductions will be accomplished through buyouts and layoffs.
While Postmedia says it does not envision departmental closures, it is unknown how many business office jobs will be lost across the chain, which includes the flagship National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun and Province, and the Victoria Times-Colonist.
Cuts in a newspaper’s business office will undoubtedly reduce local service and mean fewer connections between the paper and the people it serves in the community.
“While any staff cuts are lamentable, we are particularly concerned about the editorial jobs that have been eliminated,” says Arnold Amber, Director of CWA Canada, which has members at five of the former Canwest papers. “Cutting reporters, photographers and editors certainly does not improve the quality of a newspaper.”
Although Postmedia is justifying the cuts by saying it wants to focus on a move to digital media, getting rid of experienced journalists is a recipe for mediocrity, says Amber.
“Loyal readers of these newspapers, advertisers and business customers expect high-quality local service and news coverage. If all of that is diminished, it does not bode well for the future of that community’s newspaper,” he notes.
The cuts have been swift and deep since Postmedia’s new fiscal year began on Sept. 1. CEO Paul Godfrey, while acknowledging that nearly all of the 11 Canwest dailies are profitable, is looking to recover $40 million to help pay down debt incurred when Postmedia bought the chain from Canwest.
CWA Canada has determined that Postmedia has shed at least 228 employees, including managers, across the chain. While it is difficult to obtain precise figures, the union estimates there have been about 100 cuts in advertising and at least 70 in editorial. Overall, CWA Canada has lost about 50 members as a result of the cuts.
Last year, Canwest chopped almost 800 jobs or 13 per cent of its workforce, while struggling under creditor protection, leaving Postmedia to inherit about 5,000 employees.
The most recent cuts were achieved by either buyouts or layoffs, with the former dominating at unionized newspapers and the latter at non-union papers.
One source told CWA Canada that all the cuts at the non-unionized Calgary Herald were layoffs. “Nobody was offered a buyout in the Herald newsroom; they were just laid off. Management announced that 35 jobs would be chopped, including eight in the newsroom.” The source adds: “The deskers (copy editors) feel like the sword of Damocles is hanging over them because management classifies them as ‘non-content providers’ and considers them expendable.”
This suggests that Postmedia is prepared to have its reporters and correspondents publish directly to the Web, without an experienced copy editor in between, ensuring an article’s accuracy, balance and, in many cases, legally acceptable reportage.
Jobs cut: 35 layoffs / 8 editorial positionsEdmonton Journal
Jobs cut: 20 (2 layoffs) / 8 editorial positions
Jobs cut: 27 (23 union) / 10 editorial positions (includes 2 retirements)
Jobs cut: 42 (17 union) / 10 editorial positions
Jobs cut: 9 (unconfirmed)Vancouver Sun The Province
Jobs cut: 50 (48 union) / 20 editorial positions
Jobs cut: 12 (9 Guild members and 3 CEP)
2 editorial positions
Jobs cut: 8 / 7 editorial positions