PEI

Atlantic Canada's largest newspaper chain lays off 109 employees permanently

Atlantic Canada's largest newspaper chain, Halifax-based SaltWire Network, has announced it will be laying off 109 people permanently.

In March, SaltWire Network said about 240 people would be temporarily laid off for up to 12 weeks

Among the 109 people affected by the layoffs are 61 people working in Nova Scotia, 25 in Newfoundland and Labrador and 23 on P.E.I. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

Atlantic Canada's largest newspaper chain, Halifax-based SaltWire Network, has announced it will be laying off 109 people permanently.

Those employees were among the 240 people laid off in March, amid the loss of advertising revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a company spokesperson said in an email to CBC News Tuesday. In March, the company had said the layoffs were temporary, for up to 12 weeks.

Of the 109 people laid off Tuesday, 61 worked in Nova Scotia, 25 in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 23 on P.E.I., according to the email. Employees from all areas of the company have been affected.

Willy Palov, the president of the Halifax Typographical Union, a local of CWA Canada, which represents unionized workers at Saltwire Network, was laid off in March but went back to work a few weeks ago.

He told CBC News none of the unionized employees at SaltWire were permanently laid off, but he's still waiting for an update from the company about what the future holds for them. He said he's expecting an update in the next week.

"I'm most nervous about the people in our union who are already temporarily laid off," said Palov.

"They're on edge right now. They'd like to know what their future looks like."

Weekly publications across Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were suspended in March, and only four daily papers — the Chronicle Herald, Cape Breton Post, Charlottetown Guardian and the St. John's Telegram — continued being produced. (CBC)

The only information the union has from the company is it will provide more information in a week or so, he said.

"That's not all that reassuring. But in the bigger picture, I think anytime you lose 100-plus people from any company, it's not a good day," he said.

"We're hopeful that the savings on salaries will help us get stabilized. But obviously, anyone I've talked to in our companies is feeling pretty down about it all."

Pandemic devastating for advertising

Palov said he's hopeful that people will start buying newspapers or subscribing to web services.

"We saw during the COVID crisis that information is still important, reliable information," he said.

Officials with the company said it is continuing to provide health benefits for all those affected, as well as salary continuation for those with longer service. 

SaltWire "has witnessed the devastating impact of COVID-19 on advertising sales with ad cancellations costing millions to date without expected improvement in the coming months," the email said.

"The staff notified today have contributed to SaltWire's mission to provoke thought and action for the betterment of our communities in innumerable ways and they will be greatly missed."

Despite the company's announcement, the email said a number of people remain on a temporary layoff as it continues to plan the reintroduction of publications and services in response to market demand. 

In March, the company announced it would be enacting a reduced work week for the remaining staff "earning over a certain amount." 

Weekly publications across Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were suspended, and only four daily papers — the Chronicle Herald, Cape Breton Post, Charlottetown Guardian and the St. John's Telegram — continued being produced.

At that time, SaltWire also said it would combine the Guardian and Journal Pioneer newspapers into one publication and that all subscribers across P.E.I. would receive the Guardian.

SaltWire Network operates 35 weeklies and dailies in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

More from CBC P.E.I.

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