Business

Torstar to offer buyouts to 1,050 Star employees

A spokesman for Canada's largest daily newspaper publisher Torstar Corp. says the company plans to offer voluntary severance packages to its 1,050 Toronto Star employees.

A spokesman for Canada's largest daily newspaper publisher Torstar Corp. says the company plans to offer voluntary severance packages to its 1,050 Toronto Star employees.

"The company is in negotiations with the union leadership," Torstar representative Bob Hepburn said Thursday.

Once the talks are complete, Torstar plans to officially make the offer to editorial, circulation, advertising and human resources staff at the Star, Canada's largest-circulation newspaper.

Torstar employs about 6,600 people at its various businesses, which include the Star, other daily, community and free papers, the Harlequin book publisher and numerous digital properties.

Hepburn said the company held the first of three town hall meetings with Star staff Thursday to answer questions and two additional meetings are scheduled for Friday.

Torstar did not provide details of the pending buyout offer or how many employees it hopes to cut from its workforce.

The negotiations are the latest in a string of belt tightening moves at the Toronto Star's operations in recent years.

Like all media companies, Torstar faces an uncertain economy and a shift in its business. Traditional newspaper readership is falling as more people turn to the free digital format, where advertisers pay less than they did in an already weak ad market.

Torstar's president and CEO David Holland has been open about plans to make long-term cost cuts which include scaling back staff.

Shortly before Holland's tenure began in 2009, Torstar had cut about 300 employees from its workforce primarily though layoffs, voluntary severance and retirements.

In 2009, management at the Toronto Star had also hoped to contract out newsroom production work and cut 121 jobs in editorial and pre-publishing operations.

But it eventually struck a cost-cutting deal with its union to save some of those jobs.

During the 2008-2009 recession, Toronto Star rivals such as the Globe and Mail, National Post and Toronto Sun dailies cut their workforces and streamlined operations to become more efficient.

Broadcasters, which also compete with newspapers for ad spending, also restructured to deal with a slump in their business.

Last week, Torstar reported its third-quarter net profits jumped 74 per cent to $25.2 million.

But it also warned that ad revenues are expected to take a hit from the uncertain economy.

While Canada has done better than the United States and other economies in Europe, growth is slowing down in many parts of the country — especially in the manufacturing heartland in Ontario, where Torstar has most of its media businesses.

Aside from its slate of newspapers, Torstar operates a variety of digital properties. It also owns WagJag.com, Workopolis, and Olive Media, as well as  Harlequin, the world's largest publisher of romance fiction.

The company also owns one third of The Canadian Press news agency.

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