More cuts could be coming at Postmedia Network Canada Corp. as the company has offered voluntary buyouts to staff at the Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun newspapers, citing "persistent challenges" in the business.
The buyout package is open to any employee, including managers, at the Pacific Newspaper Group, which is comprised of the print and digital operations at the two Vancouver papers. The severance plan will be implemented over "the next two and a half months," according to a letter to staff obtained by The Globe and Mail.
News of another round of buyouts comes near the tail end of three years of relentless cost-cutting at Postmedia, which is Canada's largest newspaper chain, having acquired a stable of newspapers from Sun Media in April. Since 2012, the company's "transformation" plan has yielded $131-million in annualized savings, slashing 19 per cent of its costs as it fights to keep pace with plummeting print advertising revenues.
In February, Postmedia also announced it was offering buyouts to newsroom staff at the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and Windsor Star.
"National print advertising revenue continues to drop. And we have yet to see the bright light at the end of that tunnel," said Gordon Fisher, president of the Pacific Newspaper Group and the National Post, in a letter to staff on Monday. "To assume our job is to patiently wait for its return is a head-in-the-sand approach we must not take."
It is only the latest round of pain to hit the two Vancouver newsrooms, which have already undergone major changes in the last two years. Production has been outsourced and the printing facility sold, while dozens of employees took buyouts in the summer of 2013.
The newspapers' digital sites have been revamped, and they have still celebrated some editorial triumphs, including the Vancouver Sun's recent nomination for the prestigious Michener Award. But the Province's average daily circulation dipped to 127,000 copies in 2014, while the Vancouver Sun's fell to about 145,000, according to data from Newspaper Canada – both figures down noticeably from a year earlier.
The outlook on the revenue side remains bleak, and Mr. Fisher insists the only option is "to become a more efficient operation" once again. In its latest quarter, which ended Feb. 28, Postmedia recorded a $58.2-million loss, driven largely by a major loss on foreign exchanges as the Canadian dollar dipped. Digital revenues also fell 2.8 per cent.
"We are in a fight. A fight in which losing is not an option. And none of us has the luxury of being a spectator," Mr. Fisher writes. "We must either make difficult choices now, or have choices made for us in the future."
A Postmedia spokesperson declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, also Monday, Postmedia announced that chief operating officer Wayne Parrish will leave the company on June 30.
Mr. Parrish was part of CEO Paul Godfrey's management team at the Sun Media newspaper chain in the 1990s, before it was sold to Quebecor Inc. Mr. Parrish joined forces with Mr. Godfrey again in 2010 in a consulting role to Postmedia before taking on the job of COO in 2012. He is also the co-chair of Canada Basketball.
He said in a statement that with the deal for Postmedia to acquire Sun Media from Quebecor now complete, "it's the right moment for me to take advantage of other opportunities."