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Shaw Communications Inc. logos on display at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, in this file photo from Jan. 17, 2019.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Shaw Communications Inc. is temporarily laying off roughly 10 per cent of its workforce, primarily in retail and sales roles, because of the shutdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fewer than 1,000 people will be affected by the layoffs, Chethan Lakshman, Shaw’s vice-president of external affairs, said in a statement. Shaw employs roughly 10,000 people, according to its 2019 annual report.

The company said it is not eligible for any of the emergency government assistance programs available, such as the emergency wage subsidy that will cover 75 per cent of workers’ wages in a bid to prevent employers from laying them off.

The temporary layoffs will begin on April 16, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, these changes are necessary until our business activities resume to more normal levels,” Shaw president Paul McAleese said in a statement.

“We will be providing financial support to affected employees beyond applicable government programs, and we look forward to welcoming them back when business conditions improve."

The company said it will use its own funds to top up Employment Insurance payments and to continue to cover benefits and pension contributions for eligible laid-off employees.

Shaw’s headcount has shrunk considerably in recent years, after the company offered voluntary severance packages to thousands of its employees in a bid to reduce its operating costs. Roughly 2,700 employees had left the company as of Nov. 15, 2019, although more were expected to depart in fiscal 2020.

The layoffs follow similar moves by other telecom companies, including Quebecor Inc., which temporarily laid off roughly 1,000 of its employees – primarily at its Videotron retail stores, its warehouses and on the film production side of its business – last month.

Meanwhile, Cogeco Inc.'s Quebec-based radio business has temporarily laid off roughly a quarter of its staff as advertising from retailers affected by the shutdown has dwindled.

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