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Buyouts offered to Toronto Star employees

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

The publisher of the Toronto Star has offered another round of buyouts to employees at its flagship paper, in order to cut costs.

Senior executives at Torstar Corp. negotiated with union representatives this week to offer voluntary severance packages, company spokesperson Bob Hepburn said. On Friday, the company officially offered the buyout packages to roughly 570 staff across the newspaper's operations.

Publisher John Cruickshank held a town hall to discuss the plans with staff on Thursday morning.

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The company has no official target for the number of positions it would like to eliminate, Mr. Hepburn said.

"We have offered [voluntary severance packages]to staff," he said, adding the announcement was made at about 1 p.m. on Friday.

According to a union representative, the buyouts include editorial positions as well as advertising and layout staff. The Star has roughly 1,100 employees, around half of which are represented by the union and eligible for the buyouts. Not included in the offer are roughly 400 employees at the company's Vaughan Press Centre, and another 135 staff in Group IT.

"We're concerned that we might be whittling away at our ability to put out the kind of Toronto Star we want to put out," said Stuart Laidlaw, unit chair at The Star for the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild. There are currently just over 300 people that work in the newsroom at the Star. "...You're not cutting fat any more. You're cutting to the bone."

The buyouts are another step in a sustained effort to cut costs at the Toronto-based publisher of newspapers, Harlequin romance novels, and websites. In 2009, Torstar undertook what it called "the biggest restructuring of the Star's work force in its history," through layoffs and buyouts in every part of the organization.

In January, 2010, Torstar had plans to outsource a number of editing and pagination jobs at its flagship newspaper, but cancelled those plans after reaching a deal with the union. That saved roughly 35 of 78 editing jobs slated to go, but the rest were cut through layoffs and buyouts.

A large part of the Star's circulation call centre was also outsourced in 2007, with that work moving to Halifax and some to India.

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The current severance package is similar to those offered to employees in the past. Those who opt to leave the paper will receive three weeks of severance pay for each year that they worked there, up to a maximum of 80 weeks.

Torstar has roughly 6,600 employees in total.

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