UPDATE, APRIL 15: The Media Union of B.C. says it has reached a tentative agreement with Postmedia which would save a number of jobs. The union says, “We are working on details that will be released next week. We will have a membership meeting Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 4 pm, place to be determined where full details of the agreement will be presented to members followed by a ratification vote. Updates will be on the website as they become available.”
Vancouver’s media industry is undergoing some major changes with 54 employees being handed their layoff notices at the Vancouver Sun and Province on Friday.
The layoffs at Postmedia includes 29 journalists.
It was reported earlier this month that Postmedia failed to reach a target set last fall to reduce its salary costs by 20 per cent. Since then it has issued layoff notices to some employees at the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and the Windsor Star.
While both the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers have been through staff reduction before, it was through buyout packages.
In October 2016, Postmedia announced plans to reduce its salary costs by 20 per cent through voluntary staff buyouts, adding at the time that layoffs were possible if its target wasn’t met. This plan from the media company came shortly after it announced its net loss for the quarter nearly doubled. Staff had until Nov. 8 to apply for the buyouts.
But on Friday morning, employees reported they received an email guiding them to the 9th floor, where they could choose to finish the day or head home. The cuts don’t take effect for another two weeks but both the staff and union leaders said they feel like they’ve been lied to.
The media company’s initial cost-cutting goal was 20 per cent but then it was later increased to 42 per cent and the union claims this division of Postmedia still makes money.
“I think it’s going to be difficult [to still cover the news of the city],” Brian Gibson with Unifor Local 2000, which represents the 54 employees, said.
“It is still two newspapers, they’re still trying to keep it different. I know over time they’ve become the same because of the way Postmedia operates… but I think it’s going to be very difficult to try to cover the province properly.”
The newspaper chain’s October announcement of the first cost-cutting measure came after it reported a fourth-quarter loss of $99.4 million or 35 cents per diluted share. That was up from a loss of $54.1 million or 19 cents per diluted share for the same period a year ago. Revenue for the quarter ended Aug. 31 and totalled $198.7 million, down from $230.2 million.
Postmedia attributed most of the revenue loss to a 21.3 per cent drop in print advertising and eight per cent fall in print circulation.
For its full financial year, Postmedia said it lost $352.5 million or $1.25 per share on $877.2 million in revenue. In the previous year, it lost $263.4 million or $1.98 per diluted share on $750.3 million in revenue.
Postmedia has not responded to Global News’ request for a comment.