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Newspaper publishers in Quebec, Atlantic Canada laying off nearly 400 employees

March 24, 2020 - 5:49 PM

Two newspaper publishers in Quebec and Atlantic Canada are temporarily laying off nearly 400 employees because of the impact of COVID-19.

SaltWire Network is laying off nearly 40 per cent of its workforce or about 240 people, effective Wednesday, while the co-operative that owns most dailies newspapers outside of Montreal is cutting about 143 jobs.

SaltWire is suspending all weekly papers in Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador for 12 weeks, as well as combining two daily papers.

La Co-operative nationale de l'information independante, formerly Groupe Capitales Medias, which publishes papers including Le Soleil, will suspend all weekday print editions.

Saturday editions of the French-language papers will continue along with content on its digital platforms.

SaltWire Network CEO Mark Lever says in a letter to readers that the company has been forced to take steps because nearly two-thirds of its revenue has disappeared with many advertisers temporarily stopping operations.

Remaining employees earning salaries above a certain threshold will be asked to cut their hours of work and have their pay reduced accordingly.

Paid weekly subscribers in Nova Scotia will receive the weekend edition of The Chronicle Herald.

The print and online versions of The Chronicle Herald, the Cape Breton Post, The Guardian and The Telegram will continue to be produced, as will flyer distribution.

However, The Guardian and The Journal Pioneer will be combined for 12 weeks, with Journal Pioneer subscribers receiving The Guardian on a daily basis.

"Like many industries and businesses, the economic ripple effect of COVID-19 has hit our local newspaper media industry faster and far more aggressively than we could have ever planned for or anticipated," Lever wrote.

Media union CWA Canada said it will ensure that collective agreements and workers rights are respected at SaltWire Network.

President Martin O'Hanlon said the union is waiting for more details.

"We understand how serious the situation is and we want to work constructively with the company to get through this crisis, but we must ensure that workers are treated fairly," O'Hanlon said in a release.

"We are also pushing SaltWire to do something for sales staff who are on 100-per-cent commission and are making very little money now as sales plummet."

The Halifax Typographical Union (CWA Canada Local 30130) represents workers at The Chronicle Herald, and the Sydney Typographical Union (CWA Canada Local 30460) represents workers at the Cape Breton Post.

O'Hanlon said Glacier Media also planned to cut hours for staff at the Medicine Hat News in Alberta.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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