Jobs and entire departments are being relentlessly
chopped at former Osprey Media newspapers — many of
which have served their communities for more than a century — as
Quebecor's Sun Media division sends more and more work to
non-unionized company facilities in Barrie.
The cuts have been keenly felt in Kingston, Peterborough,
Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, where the loss of the four-person
composing room led to the demise of a CWA Canada Local, the
Sudbury Typographical Union. (Its last gasp, however, will
not come until after an arbitration hearing set for April
27 on grievances related to the layoffs, says president Eric
Just yesterday, seven workers at the Kingston
Whig Standard received notice that they are being laid off effective April
17, says David Wilson, a CWA Canada staff representative.
Five of them are ad builders, whose work will be shipped
Debbie Newton, president of the Kingston Typographical Union,
says two of three sales assistants are also being cut, leaving
only one person to provide support for herself and four other
advertising sales staff.
At a time when all media outlets are seeing a drop in advertising
revenue, it seems nonsensical to cut support staff, says
Newton. She explains that, with commission-based outside
sales reps having to take on new clerical duties that will
consume about two hours a day, they will spend less time
selling, which will eat into their income and translate into
lower revenues for Sun Media.
Not having ad builders on the premises will also complicate
things for the sales reps, as members of the Sault Ste. Marie
Typographical Union have already discovered.
An ad builder and two graphic artists
were laid off by the Sault Star on Friday and the pre-press
department closed, says Elaine Mills, president of the
Local. "They took
all their computers out on Sunday and moved them to Barrie."
"They're pretty much our creative department," says
Mills and the loss has had a major impact on advertising
sales staff. "They went back 35 years with this system,
to a time when a sales person sketched ads for a customer's
Instead of being out selling, says Mills, advertising reps
are sitting in front of a computer trying to fix ads designed
and created hundreds of kilometres away.
An example of how cumbersome the system has become occurred
today, she says. A classified adviser who was working on
a monthly real estate section had to fax every ad, along
with a cover page, to Barrie where it was being produced.
Dozens of faxes had to be sent and the phone lines were often
busy on the receiving end, turning it into a hair-tearing
Newton in Kingston is anticipating a similar scenario. She
notes that the Whig Standard's weekly real estate section
usually contains about 160 ads. Each one that is built in
Barrie will have to be sent to Kingston by email or fax to
be proofed and then sent back to Barrie for corrections.
Mills says the publisher on Friday would not offer any assurances
that this would be the end of the layoffs in the Sault. She
fears that desktop editors could be next on the chopping
block, noting that many of the paper's pages that contain
editorial content are already being produced in Barrie. The
same is true in Kingston and at most of the other Ontario
dailies purchased by Quebecor from a financially-ailing Osprey
The most recent layoffs in the Sault followed four cuts
in December, when two employees in the newsroom, one in advertising,
and an ad builder lost their jobs, says Mills.
There was no forewarning of Friday's layoffs, she adds.
The workers received four weeks' pay in lieu of notice; their
severance package provided two weeks pay for each year of
The president of the Sudbury Local says severance is one
of two issues going before the arbitrator later this month.
Yeomans, who has worked at the Sudbury
Star since 1972, says he and his three ad builder/graphic
artist colleagues were told in mid-December they would
be out of work by the end of January. "That was our Christmas present from
Quebecor," he says wryly.
They are hoping the arbitrator upholds a clause in their
contract (which would have expired at the end of this month)
that requires the company give 90 days notice and $60,000
in severance payments if the layoff is due to technological
change. If the Local wins the arbitration, the four workers
stand to receive up to four weeks more pay and an additional
$21,500 in severance.
(The Northern Ontario Newspaper Guild —
CWA Canada Local 30232 — represents workers in other departments
at the Sudbury Star.)
Nigel Sones, business agent for the CWA Peterborough Local,
says five compositors lost their jobs at The
February when that department was closed. Just before Christmas,
seven employees, including reporters, photographers and circulation
staff, were laid off.
The composing room was shut down at the Lindsay
the fall, when three compositors lost their jobs, says Sones.
There are only nine people left in that bargaining unit,
which includes editorial, advertising and clerical staff.
Sones says other cost-saving measures taken by Sun Media
included reducing the Post from daily to twice weekly publication
and the merger of the Port Hope Evening
Guide, the Cobourg
Daily Star and the Colbourne Chronicle into a daily called
Northumberland Today. That paper's bargaining unit, with
25 members, represents advertising, editorial, clerical and