SaltWire Network announces layoffs, newspaper closures amid pandemic

The Halifax-based company says its revenue stream has been hit hard by COVID-19 and is temporarily laying off staff and closing some publications.
Halifax-based Saltwire Network announced Tuesday it is temporarily laying off 40 per cent of its workforce, and suspending publication of some newspapers. The St. John's Telegram, however, will continue to publish daily. (Cecil Haire/CBC)

All of Newfoundland and Labrador's weekly newspapers are closing temporarily as advertising revenues dry up because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Halifax-based SaltWire Network announced Tuesday afternoon it's temporarily laying off 40 per cent of its Atlantic Canadian workforce, suspending production of all weekly newspapers across Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, and producing only four daily publications: the St. John's Telegram, the Halifax Chronicle Herald, the Cape Breton Post and Prince Edward Island's Guardian.

Remaining staff "earning over a certain amount" will also have their work week reduced, according to a news release from the company, which said the changes are effective immediately.

"As nearly every event, conference and business across Atlantic Canada has suspended advertising and cancelled existing media buys, SaltWire publications in every part of the region have been impacted," said Mark Lever, president and CEO of SaltWire Network, in the press release.

"The economic ripple effect of COVID-19 hit us faster and far more aggressively than we could have ever planned for or anticipated. Nearly half our total company revenue has evaporated in less than a week," said Lever.

The company will continue to provide medical benefits to staff during the temporary layoff period, Lever added.

Most SaltWire staff were already working remotely in an effort to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The company intends for the layoffs and suspension of publications to continue for the next 12 weeks.

"Like many other businesses, we are faced with the difficult reality of making impossible decisions right now," Lever added. "This is not what we want to do, but it's what we must do to find a sustainable way forward during this very uncertain time."

The company hopes to rehire employees and resume publications as soon as possible, says the statement, but is planning for the changes to be maintained until around June 15, "due to the uncertainties brought about by this crisis," said the statement.

On Prince Edward Island, the Guardian and Journal Pioneer will be combined for all subscribers across P.E.I. during this period, according to the statement.

The company did not say how many positions are included in the 40 per cent reduction.

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