Ottawa Newspaper Guild memo, Oct. 31, 2016:
We have only begun to fight
Ottawa Newspaper Guild members are under attack from our employer. Our reward for doing more with less is the threat of losing our jobs. Our work is what keeps the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun alive.
Postmedia’s plan will not keep them alive and we know it.
The buyout offer has not attracted the numbers they want so they are going to try to lay us off even if they violate our contract.
We are not going to stand by. The executive, following an emergency meeting Monday night, agrees that we need a forceful, measured response and we need you.
We have already sent a letter to Paul Godfrey explaining what we believe, that cuts to jobs will just worsen the revenue stream. Investing in people is what is needed. We have already come up with a response to the company’s notice that layoffs are coming. We have already approached members to help draft and plan what comes next.
All of our options and more will be discussed at Wednesday’s unit meeting. Noon, in the conference centre, be there.
We know that we will do all we can to save our jobs.
As Postmedia merrily proceeds with its plans to decimate the staff of the Ottawa newspapers our members tell us that the stress and anxiety levels they are experiencing are unprecedented. Everyone is overworked and that, coupled with the uncertainty of employment, is taking its toll.
On Oct. 20 Postmedia released a financial statement showing that losses had hit $99 million during the last quarter and ad sales were down 20 per cent. Days later an austerity program was announced _ costs were to be cut and layoffs were to be expected. A voluntary buyout was offered with a goal of a 20 per cent reduction is payroll costs. If buyouts didn’t attract the required numbers then layoffs would follow.
There was NO mention of executive pay cuts. Paul Godfrey was NOT asked to return the $400,000 bonus he received for doing his job.
Instead, the Citizen and Sun staff were invited to a meeting where they were told that “now priorities” were the order of the day.
The company was shifting its focus to digital and reducing its print footprint. The newspapers would shrink.
The Citizen was going to lose its own arts and lifestyle sections. Those sections would remain but produced nationally. Local stories would appear in the Thursday and Saturday editions.
Reporters and some columnists at the Sun and Citizen would no longer be exclusive, they would be used where the company decided. Staff hours would be changed to focus on peak times _ mornings, evenings and weekends. Many stories would only appear in the digital editions of the papers.
Editorial employees will have their roles evaluated and explained in one-on-one meetings with management. Those sessions have already started and the Guild urges everyone to have a union representative with them when they are evaluated. It is your RIGHT.
And, most ominously, the company has announced an end to freelancing. Most freelancers have already been told their work is no longer wanted. Some freelancers will be asked to continue until certain commitments have been met. The Guild has not been told what that means. Nor has the Guild been told if the dropping of freelancers means the papers will go without comics and syndicated columnists like Mike Holmes.
As most know, our contract prohibits the laying off of editorial staff as long as freelancers are being used.
So, that’s it in a nutshell.
All of the issues will be discussed, action plans formulated and the world as we know it will be explained at Wednesday’s unit meeting. Try and be there. We need your input and we can tell you how the Guild at the Victoria Times Colonist responded to demands for an 18 per cent reduction in costs.