Staff at The Province and the Vancouver Sun are bracing themselves for impending layoffs to achieve “dramatic staff reductions.”
In a bluntly-worded four-page memo sent to all employees on Wednesday, Pacific Newspaper Group president and publisher Gordon Fisher said the two competing newspapers have seen an “alarming and unprecedented revenue declines,” and layoffs will likely follow a voluntary buyout program that will be launched soon.
Fisher told J-Source he does not have a specific target for the number of employees or the amount of cost savings the company hoped to achieve through the buyout. He added that he has been in conversation with the union, and said the existing contracts make the two Vancouver-based newspapers costlier to produce than others.
"Look, we have to find significant savings and I'm anticipating we will have to resort to layoffs," he said. "We're looking at the legacy part, so definitely managers will also be considered for these buyouts, and I'm hoping we can find a way to keep some of the younger journalists ... I'm not really keen on the idea that just because you're last one in, I don't want it to be like you're first out."
Fisher says the Pacific Newspaper Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Postmedia Network, cannot afford to live in a nostalgic past. Print revenue fell 16 per cent in March, and online advertising revenue has not been able to make up the shortfall. “These are not easy decisions,” he said, but for now, says there is no plan to eliminate one of the two newspapers. "There will be more integration. Already there is more of that."
On the long four-page memo, Fisher says he wanted to give employees as "complete a picture" as they could get from him. And he asked his staff to consider what they're doing to make sure the company survives this downturn.
“Please understand that we need your help. And if you do anything every day of the week let it be this: ask yourself if you are part of the solution or are willing to be part of the solution. lf you aren`t part of the solution, ask yourself why that is. We are all in this together and we are all lighting not only for the future of The Vancouver Sun and The Province, but for the lives and well-being of our families.”
Earlier this month, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey said the company will be shrinking and will look at all options, including outsourcing. It posted a 10 per cent revenue loss in its second quarter earnings, and will be rolling out paywalls for all its online newspaper websites.
The announcement of layoffs at PNG follows a similar one made by the Globe and Mail earlier this week, which is also offering a voluntary separation program to its employees and hopes to reduce its staffing* by eight per cent.
A former Province employee Suzanne Fournier, who worked for 37 years at the newspaper and took the buyout last year, told CBC that she "isn't surprised about today's news."
"If the time is right, make the jump," she recommended to her former colleagues, the CBC reported. "And if you don't make the jump, you're going to be pushed."
Read the memo here, courtesy of steveladurantaye.ca
*The article incorrectly states The Globe planned to reduce its costs by 8 per cent, when in fact, it hopes to reduce its staffing by 8 per cent. We regret the error.