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Torstar Corp. is cutting 160 jobs, including the entire Internet production staff at its flagship Toronto Star daily, in a restructuring prompted by continuing weakness in the newspaper industry.

The parent company of the Toronto Star, Canada's largest-circulation newspaper, said yesterday the restructuring involves "a combination of voluntary and involuntary staff reductions." Torstar will take a $21-million charge, but expects to save $12-million annually in labour costs.

Most of the job cuts were expected, but laying off the 10-person Internet staff was a surprise, said Maureen Dawson, an official with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

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"The Star has said they would tell us in the coming weeks where the (Internet) work would go. We have an idea where one or two of the positions would go - but not all of it."

The series of layoffs and severance packages could also lead to a "limited" number of new hires to fill the recently vacated positions, according to a Torstar spokesman.

"Torstar is trying to keep its cost structure at a level that is reasonable," said spokesman Bob Hepburn. "Across the newspaper industry in North America the trends in recent years for advertising have been challenging."

The company also owns other Ontario dailies such as the Hamilton Spectator, the Metroland stable of community papers and the Harlequin publisher, along with websites Toronto.com and Workopolis.com. Metroland employees would also be affected.

The staff cuts are the latest to rock the North American newspaper industry, struggling because of falling circulation and the growth of online news.

Yesterday, a union official said the Montreal Gazette, owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp., will soon lay off 46 employees in sales and service. Meanwhile, The New York Times Co. posted a first-quarter loss of $335,000 (U.S.) due to slumping ad revenue.

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