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Atlantic Canada's largest newspaper chain temporarily lays off 40% of staff
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Atlantic Canada's largest newspaper chain temporarily lays off 40% of staff

Written by
Anjuli Patil
Published by
CBC News
March 24th, 2020

All SaltWire weeklies temporarily shutting down amid loss of ads due to COVID-19

Atlantic Canada's largest newspaper chain is temporarily laying off 40 per cent of its staff and shutting down its weekly publications amid the loss of advertising revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SaltWire Network operates 35 weeklies and dailies in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, including the Halifax Chronicle Herald and the St. John's Telegram.

"The economic ripple effect of COVID-19 hit us faster and more aggressively than we could have ever planned for or anticipated," Mark Lever, president and CEO of SaltWire Network, said in a news release Tuesday.

The company said about 240 people will be temporarily laid off for up to 12 weeks. It said it will provide medical benefits to staff during the period. It is also enacting a reduced work week for the remaining staff "earning over a certain amount."

Weekly publications across Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have been temporarily suspended, and only four daily papers — the Chronicle Herald, Cape Breton Post, Charlottetown Guardian and the Telegram — will continue to be produced.

The Guardian and Journal Pioneer out of Summerside, P.E.I., will be combined, with all subscribers on the Island receiving the Guardian, the company said. A news release made no mention of the chain's one weekly in New Brunswick, in Sackville. No changes are being made to the flyer distribution network.

SaltWire declined an interview with CBC News.

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Hoping to come back

CWA Canada, the body that represents unionized workers at SaltWire Network, announced on Twitter the temporary layoffs, cuts to staff pay and hours, and the temporary closure of many of the publications.

Willy Palov, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, a local of CWA Canada, said he is among the staff who were laid off.

"The hope of the company's is all of us will come back, but of course no one can really project how long the coronavirus is going to be active or when it's going to be under control," Palov said.

CBC workers are also represented by CWA Canada through the Canadian Media Guild.

'Pain going all the way around for everybody'

Palov said the workers are like a lot of employees facing layoffs in light of the virus — they're just trying to wait it out. He said the remaining staff are going to have their hours and wages reduced by 20 per cent if they make above a certain salary.

"So there's pain going all the way around for everybody here," he said.

Palov said anybody who is at home trying to keep tabs on what is going on in the world should have a better appreciation for good news reporting and accurate information.

"Maybe it's a good reminder that people should subscribe to a newspaper or an online news service, not just to keep us employed but also as a reminder that real accurate information and facts are important right now," he said.

SaltWire Network said it hopes to be able to return to normal operations as soon as possible, but is "planning for these changes to be maintained" until approximately June 15.

© CBC News

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