New documents show how fast BlackBerry shed jobs over 6 months in 2013-14

BlackBerry shed at least 33 per cent of its Waterloo, Ont., workforce over a six-month period, new documents obtained by CBC News show.

More than 2,200 jobs shed in Ontario at end of 2013 into 2014, documents show

A BlackBerry smartphone using the Messenger service is shown in this 2011 file photo. (Oliver Lang/dapd/Associated Press)

BlackBerry Ltd. cut more than 2,202 jobs in Ontario during a six-month period stretching from October 2013 to March 2014, according to new documents CBC News obtained from a freedom of information request.

The documents paint a company in free fall, with numerous layoffs coming in the six months after BlackBerry posted a quarterly earnings loss of $965 million at the end of September 2013, and an announcement that it would lay off 4,500 employees. 

The documents show a stunning turn in fortunes for the company, which had dominated the global smartphone market in mid-2000s.

"When you're going through a restructuring like this, it's going to be in all facets of the company at all levels of the company," Andrew MacLeod, then BlackBerry's managing director for North America, told CBC Radio One host Craig Norris in an interview in Kitchener before the devastating earnings report in 2013.

Majority of cuts in Waterloo

BlackBerry didn't reveal where or when those cuts were made at the time, but notices of termination of employment the company filed with the Ontario Ministry of Labour show around half of those positions were cut in Waterloo, Ont., Mississauga and Ottawa. 

The clear majority were cut from the company's Waterloo headquarters. BlackBerry listed 5,461 total salaried employees on October 28, 2013, in Waterloo, a number that had dropped to 3,847 by March of 2014, according to the documents. Including the planned layoffs scheduled for March 14, the numbers dropped to 3,660 employees in Waterloo, or a decrease of 33 per cent in just six months. 

A further 157 jobs were cut from offices in Mississauga and another 182 cut from Ottawa over the six-month period.

In the March 14 filing, BlackBerry notes the company was anticipating another possible layoff of more than 10 per cent of its Ontario workforce, which would trigger another mass termination notice after that date.

No further mass terminations

However, according to the ministry, up to February of 2016 when CBC filed an access to information request, no further mass termination notices were issued. That means any layoffs from the company were smaller in number and can't be accounted for publicly unless BlackBerry itself decided to release the numbers. 

Employers must file notices of termination with the ministry any time more than 50 employees will are laid off in a four-week period. Employers must also give at least eight weeks notice whenever more than 50 employees are laid off, an amount that increases depending on the number of employees being laid off. That can be waived if employers pay employees instead, which BlackBerry indicated it did, offering a minimum of 16 weeks pay. 

The actual number total number of BlackBerry employees cut during that same time period could be higher than indicated in the layoff notices filed with the ministry as the company isn't required to inform the ministry of any layoffs of fewer than 50 people.


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