The publisher of some of Canada's largest English-language daily newspapers, including the National Post, says it plans to sell two properties in British Columbia and Alberta in a bid to reduce costs and pay down debt.
Soon to go on the market will be the Kennedy Heights printing plant in Surrey, B.C., and the Calgary Herald building, announced Postmedia Network Canada Corp. Monday.
The Kennedy Heights plant prints the Vancouver Sun and the Province.
TC Transcontinental Printing will begin printing the Calgary Herald, which has a daily circulation of around 80,000, in November, and Postmedia said it has asked union representatives in Vancouver to "develop alternatives" to the Kennedy Heights plant.
A spokesperson for Postmedia could not be immediately reached for comment.
New plant only if costs are cut by 70%
"Union officers will be consulting with our legal counsel and meeting with members to discuss our next steps," said Unifor Local 2000, formerly the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, in an online statement.
The statement said union representatives were informed about the decision Monday by Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey, who presented two possible options.
One option for the company in British Columbia would be to open a new plant, but only if the company and the union could reach an agreement that would cut costs by 70 to 75 per cent. Such an agreement would need to be in place by mid-November, the union said.
If that doesn't happen, the union said, the company plans to contract out printing to Transcontinental. The union said the company already has a contract in place with Transcontinental.
It's estimated that 60 printing staff at the Calgary Herald will lose their jobs as a result of the sale.
The union's statement noted its collective agreement stipulates "there will be no involuntary loss of employment of any regular employee during the life of the contract as a result of" contracting out.
Gary Engler, vice-president of Unifor Local 2000, declined to elaborate on the statement but said members were going to meet at the plant Monday night.
Calgary Herald employees found out about the sale of their building on 16th Street SE in an email sent at came at 8:08 p.m. MT Monday.
Downgraded by Moody's
"It's in line with a decision to look at our real estate holdings," said Phyllise Gelfand, vice-president of communications with Postmedia, of the decision to sell the two properties. "We've recently sold our Don Mills (Ontario) facility, we sold a facility in Windsor, and it's just not efficient for us to continue printing on our own."
Postmedia owns daily newspapers across the country, including the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen, the Regina Leader Post and the Windsor Star.
The media company announced in July it recorded a loss of $112.2 million in the most recent quarter. Its operating loss was $95.6 million, compared to an operating income of $4.1 million in the third quarter of 2012.
In July, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Postmedia's rating to negative from stable because of the media company's declining cash flow as it transitions to a digital business.