Both Quebecor and Cogeco have announced temporary layoffs as media companies move to shutter non-essential parts of their business and grapple with a decline in advertising revenue.
Quebecor announced Friday it’s temporarily laying off 10% of its employees as it complies with a provincial order to close businesses deemed non-essential.
“Since the start of the crisis, the entire Quebecor family has wanted to show solidarity as well as do its part in the face of this unprecedented situation that affects us all,” said Pierre Karl Peladeau, Quebecor President & CEO, in a release. “The cessation of non-essential business activities inevitably led to a slowdown in the economy for several of our business partners, and as a result, caused a significant decrease in activities in some of our sectors, thus explaining this difficult decision. Today, while of course continuing to offer the people of Quebec the essential services of telecommunications and the news media, our priority is to help ensure the health and safety of our employees.”
About 25% of the layoffs, more than 480 employees, are Groupe TVA employees. However, the company said newsrooms are not impacted.
In order to minimize the financial toll on employees, Quebecor said it’s improving government assistance benefits to ensure that salaried employees who make less than $54,200 receive 95% of their regular salary. They’ll also be able to obtain a two-week salary advance to make up for delays in government assistance programs. For those earning more than $54,200, the bonus will maintain 80% of salaries, with a salary cap set at $80,000.
Applicable to all permanent and temporary employees, the measures will be in effect from Monday, Mar. 30 to May 31.
Cogeco Media, which owns 23 radio stations across Quebec, is laying off 130, almost a quarter of the company’s staff. The layoffs, blamed on a downturn in advertising revenue, are mostly contained to off-air positions, including sales, promotions and accounting. For the time being, programming on Rythme FM in Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières will be replaced by network shows out of Montreal, with the exception of local news.
Layoffs follow print media cuts
The latest layoffs follow the release of 143 employees by Quebec’s CN2i, the cooperative that now runs the six regional newspapers formerly owned by Groupe Capitales Médias. It’s laid off 143 staff until the COVID-19 crisis passes.
Atlantic Canada’s Saltwire Network, which operates 35 daily and weekly newspapers, has laid off 240 staff or 40% of its workforce and temporarily ceased publication of its weekly newspapers. Just four dailies – Halifax’s Chronicle Herald, Cape Breton Post, Charlottetown Guardian, and The Telegram in St. John’s, NL – will continue to publish. Remaining employees will work reduced hours and receive reduced pay.
Halifax independent alt weekly The Coast has temporarily laid off 20 staff and moved to publish online only. Media Central Corporation has also laid off a handful of journalists at both NOW Toronto and the Georgia Straight in Vancouver, while another 10 journalists are out of work at Le Citoyen in Abitibi, Que., among other small newspapers.
Meantime, Montreal’s La Presse is temporarily reducing salaries by 10% for union members, managers and senior executives. Employer contributions to pension funds will also be decreased.
Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has announced a $30-million COVID-19 government ad campaign promised to bring some revenue relief to Canadian newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and online publications.
Canadian Heritage also said it’s working to establish a simplified process for submitting and processing 2020-21 funding requests for the Canada Book Fund and Canada Periodical Fund, which provides financial assistance to Canadian print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital periodicals.
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