TORONTO – Unions representing Canadian journalists want five Postmedia executives to reject bonuses totalling $2.275 million as the struggling newspaper chain continues staff reductions.
The company awarded Postmedia president and CEO Paul Godfrey $900,000, CFO Doug Lamb $450,000, COO Andrew MacLeod $425,000, legal and general counsel Jeffrey Haar $300,000, and National Post president Gordon Fisher $200,000, according to financial documents filed Wednesday.
The money will be paid out over three installments with the first cash payment already distributed on July 15. The next two payments will be made Dec. 2 of this year and July 14, 2017.
The bonuses were part of a retention plan to keep key employees with the company during and after its recently completed debt restructuring, which reduced its total debt of $648 million by about $307 million.
“It’s not unusual” for a company to implement such a program during these types of transactions, said Postmedia’s vice-president of communications, Phyllise Gelfand.
However, one of the five executives, Haar, will leave Postmedia at the end of November, she said. Gelfand could not confirm whether Haar is still entitled to the next two payouts of his retention bonus.
The Communications Workers of America Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said in a statement that the executives are acting in an unconscionable manner by accepting the extra money while asking employees to volunteer for buyouts or risk another round of layoffs.
“This is an absolute disgrace,” he said, calling on the five men to return the money.
Unifor Local 87-M, which represents Ontario’s unionized newspaper workers, called on the executives to give the money to Postmedia’s employees.
“That money should be spent to retain workers,” said union president Paul Morse in a statement.
Postmedia said last month it was looking to cut salary costs by 20 per cent.
The newspaper chain offered its employees voluntary buyouts in late October. The company has not yet announced whether the program reached that target, but has said layoffs may be necessary otherwise.
As of the end of August this year, Postmedia had 4,233 full-time equivalent employees, according to its financial documents — down from 4,733 a year prior. In January, the company laid off 90 people and merged newsrooms in four cities where it owns two newspapers in each market.
Gelfand said the company had no comment on either the union’s demand for the executives to return their extra pay, or the optics of simultaneously handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses and working towards reducing salary expenses.
Despite the bonus, Godfrey’s total compensation fell by nearly $100,000 for 2016, while that of the other four executives rose this year by $29,800 on the low end and $113,456 on the high end. Each of their base salaries remained the same as in 2015.
Last year, the five executives and Wayne Parrish, the company’s former COO, received bonuses for their work when Postmedia acquired Sun Media’s English-language newspapers and digital properties.