Remaining staff struggle to cope after layoffs at Ottawa Citizen, Canadian Press

2019.02.26

empty newsroom Newsrooms are becoming lonely places as media outlets cut editorial staff amid declining revenues.

CWA Canada members at two news operations that are laying off yet more staff are struggling to cope with the grim realities of their decimated workplaces.

Postmedia has informed the Ottawa Newspaper Guild (CWA Canada Local 30205) that another three of its members, including President Debbie Cole, will receive official notice in early March.

Earlier this month, members of the Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213) who work for The Canadian Press (CP), were dismayed to learn of more devastating cuts that will include the loss of six journalists in Toronto and Halifax.

This is the fourth round of layoffs at the news agency since last spring; the loss of 30 jobs equates to 15 per cent of CP’s unionized staff. Hardest hit is Halifax, which is seeing its bureau staffing halved to three positions.

Terry Pedwell, president of the CMG’s Canadian Press branch, said it was “devastating and angering to witness the shrinking of our 102-year-old press service.”

Calling CP the “backbone of Canadian journalism,” Pedwell added: “We understand the job cuts are due to declining revenues … This is not new, but these deepening cuts come at a time when the strength of democracy and media’s role to hold power to account are being sorely tested.”

Pedwell said the CMG has told the company that staff are “unable to keep delivering at the same pace as before the cuts.”

“Members have already bent over backwards enough. Management must come up with a realistic plan to reduce workload for our members. There should be no expectation that we will simply continue to do more with less.”

That has been the expectation of Postmedia, which has slashed its workforce across the country over the better part of a decade.

Cole and a colleague, both of whom work in Reader Sales & Service (RSS) at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun, along with another ONG member in in-house printing (leaving only a manager to run that operation), will be out of a job later next month.

Cole said RSS will be left with three country-district supervisors (there used to be six) and one customer service representative.

“We shouldn’t be surpised,” said Cole, who started working at the Citizen as a temp in 1977 and has been active in the Guild in many capacities over the years, including as president since 2011. “The building has been sold to a realty company” and Postmedia has leased back a portion of it, from which the Citizen and Sun will continue to be produced.

In the wake of these layoffs, the ONG Citizen/Sun membership number will sit at 56. In 2013, prior to the merger of the two newsrooms, the Citizen unit had 110 members. That was down by almost half from the 2008 count of 201.

Between its founding in 2010 and 2015, Postmedia’s employee numbers went from 5,400 to 2,500, but rose to 4,800 in 2016 with the purchase of Quebecor’s Sun Media chain. Layoffs and buyouts had reduced employee headcount to 3,300 by June 2018, when the company announced yet another round of cuts with the objective of paring 10 per cent of salary costs.

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