Transcontinental Printing, which has two facilities in Winnipeg and plans to lay off 1,500 workers across North America, doesn't yet know how many cuts might take place in Winnipeg.

"We have made no announcements on any of the facilities," said Nessa Prendergast, spokeswoman for Montreal-based Transcontinental, a commercial printer and publisher of magazines and newspapers with 60 plants in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

In an interview, she said the company hasn't determined how many jobs would be affected in Winnipeg.

'It's a difficult situation for everyone affected, but we are acting in the interests of all of our employees and our shareholders.' — Chief executive François Olivier

Prendergast did confirm about 600 of jobs would be cut from the company's Canadian workforce, which is spread across 45 operations. Twenty per cent of those cuts will be made at facilities in Quebec, she said, adding that employees across the country will learn more in the coming months.

There are 185 employees in Winnipeg working at the company's two operations: Trans-Continental LGM-Coronet and Transcontinental Spot Graphics Inc.

Economy to blame, company says

 Transcontinental made the layoff announcement in a news release sent out Wednesday, citing a need for "major rationalization measures to address the recession."

The downturn in the economy means customers aren't doing as much business, the company's release stated.

"It's a difficult situation for everyone affected, but we are acting in the interests of all of our employees and our shareholders," chief executive François Olivier said in a release. "In the short term, this rationalization comes at a cost, but in the medium term it will protect the corporation's financial health."

Paul McKie, spokesman for the Communication Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents Winnipeg's Transcontinental employees, said the company has not spoken to the union, at least not locally.

"I am very concerned, very concerned about this," he said. "The printing industry is being hit hard, has been hit hard [by the economic downturn]. These are skilled jobs, not $10-an-hour jobs.

"These workers go through an apprenticeship. These jobs are disappearing."

Cuts also being made in U.S., Mexico

Transcontinental, which reported revenues of $2.4 billion Cdn in 2008, also has facilities in the United States and Mexico. Prendergast said 50 per cent of the 1,500 job cuts will be made at the U.S. plants and 10 per cent will be made in Mexico.

She added that 500 people in the U.S., who work in the company's direct-mail operations, have already been let go.

In addition to the job cuts, "substantive cost-cutting measures are being implemented throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico," the company said in its release.

A hiring freeze has been implemented. Unpaid leave, reduced work weeks and other measures are also being implemented. Senior managers will also be taking two weeks of unpaid leave but will work throughout that time.

In total, the measures will cut costs by about $75 million on an annualized basis, including $50 million in 2009, according to Olivier.