Union slams Postmedia layoffs

National president urges Liberal government to review the state of Canadian news media

The union representing Postmedia Network workers calls the company’s decision to consolidate its newsrooms in markets where it operates two papers – a group that includes Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa – a “betrayal of trust” to its readers.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said the state of the Canadian news media – both print and broadcast – demanded the “immediate attention” of the new Trudeau government.

“An informed public is the bedrock of a democratic society,” said Dias in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “Canada needs a strong news industry to ensure we have that informed public electing our leaders.”

Unifor represents 310,000 workers including 14,500 employed in the media sector.

In the latest in a series of cuts, the Toronto-based publisher of the National Post, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Ottawa City and the Sun chain of dailies laid off a reported 90 staff Tuesday and announced plans to merge newsrooms in two-newspaper markets.

The cuts are aimed at producing cost-savings of $80 million by mid-2017 as the chain grapples with plummeting revenues.

Dias said combined with the crisis affecting the broadcast industry in the wake of “questionable” CRTC rulings under the Harper government shows “urgent attention” must be given to the state of the news industry.

Following Postmedia’s acquisition of the Sun chain, the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Winnipeg Free Press are the only major English Canadian newspapers not owned by Postmedia.

“This is an enormous concentration of media control into a few hands,” Dias said. “Centralized newsgathering and opinions, including in local news, do not add to the national debate that helps build a functioning democracy.

“With each quieted voice, our democracy suffers.”

Unifor’s Ottawa chapter also issued a statement calling the move “shocking” and a “bad deal” for Ottawa residents and Canadians in general. “The loss of editorial independence by making one newsroom produce two newspapers in Ottawa, as well as in other local cities, is a blow to democracy,” said Unifor Local 87-M president Paul Morse.

Morse said more than half of the Sun’s employees lost their jobs as a result of the newsroom mergers, but said the union would assess its legal options and apply them “vigorously as required.”

Morse said the Competition Bureau approved the sale of the Sun Media publications on the assumption the deal would unlikely result in staff reductions in relevant markets. “Clearly, separate and independent editorial voice went out the window today,” he said.

Unifor Local 87-M represents news staff at the Ottawa Sun and inserters at the Ottawa Citzen, as well as employees at 12 other Sun Media dailies across Ontario including the Toronto Sun and London Free Press.


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