[Note: This post has been updated] The Toronto Star is “seriously considering contracting out segments of work” and is therefore asking employees to consider voluntary severance packages in advance of likely layoffs, Star publisher John Cruickshank told staff today in a memo.
In a note to employees (the full text of this memo is pasted at the bottom of this post.), Cruickshank told staff that upcoming changes at the paper will “involve what is likely to be the biggest restructuring of the Star‘s workforce in its history.”
According to a document distributed to employees from human resources vice-president Brian Daly, the Star is offering (through what is being called the “Voluntary Separation Program”) three weeks of severance for each year of service, up to a maximum of 85 weeks. It states that in all cases this voluntary program offers more severance than the collective agreement calls for in “contracting out circumstances.” This situation applies to all permanent employees represented by the CEP Locals 87M and 591-G and all permanent management salary plan employees.
Cruickshank’s note explains which jobs are likely to be outsourced. He wrote:
“We have also advised the CEP that we are seriously considering contracting out segments of work associated with the production of our print product. This work is currently performed within the Star’s Pre Publishing and Editorial Divisions. Within Pre Publishing, we are exploring the contracting out of ad building and the scope of this effort may expand to include some or all of the remaining work in the Division.
“Within Editorial, we are exploring the contracting out of some or all copy editing and pagination work, and the scope again may expand to include other editorial production and related activities. The scope of these and related outsourcing initiatives may well extend to work groups in other divisions of the Star.
“While contracting out in all of these areas is still under exploration, we wish to provide potentially affected employees and their union representatives with as much information as possible, as soon as possible.”
Employees have nearly one month to decide as applications must be in by Nov. 30. Staff have been told that those who were told their job might be lost can withdraw their application if their job classification is not ultimately one chosen for outsourcing.
For further information, the full text of publisher John Cruickshank’s memo to employees is pasted below:
Date: November 3, 2009
To: All Staff
From: John Cruickshank
As I mentioned at townhall meetings earlier this fall, the Star’s strategic plan calls for a fundamental transformation from a newspaper company into a multi-platform news and content organization. This will involve structuring the organization around the core capabilities that drive the business, and leveraging these core capabilities across new and emerging platforms. Beyond these core areas, we must find the best way to operate our business at the lowest possible cost, including contracting out non core functions where there is a sound business case to do so. This will involve what is likely to be the biggest restructuring of the Star’s workforce in its history. It won’t be easy. Changes will affect every job in every corner of the organization.
In light of the magnitude of the changes ahead, we are today launching a Voluntary Separation Program, to provide staff with additional choices. Details of the VSP are provided in the attached letter from Human Resources. Over the last month, we have engaged the CEP in discussions on the provisions of the VSP, and we are very pleased to advise that the final program reflects a signed agreement between the Star and the CEP.
We have also advised the CEP that we are seriously considering contracting out segments of work associated with the production of our print product. This work is currently performed within the Star’s Pre Publishing and Editorial Divisions. Within Pre Publishing, we are exploring the contracting out of ad building and the scope of this effort may expand to include some or all of the remaining work in the Division. Within Editorial, we are exploring the contracting out of some or all copy editing and pagination work, and the scope again may expand to include other editorial production and related activities. The scope of these and related outsourcing initiatives may well extend to work groups in other divisions of the Star.
While contracting out in all of these areas is still under exploration, we wish to provide potentially affected employees and their union representatives with as much information as possible, as soon as possible. We will of course provide the CEP with the details of our business cases for contracting out in these areas, once our investigations are concluded, and seriously consider all alternatives to contracting out that the union may wish to present. If we ultimately conclude that contracting out is not the appropriate route to take, then employees in affected job classifications will be able to withdraw their VSP applications if they wish.
It is understood by the company and the union that this general notification is not the formal notification of layoffs required under the collective agreement, which must still be completed along with the opportunity for the union to suggest alternatives to contracting out. The company will provide such formal notification as soon as the business reviews in the affected areas are concluded. Specific details on contracting out timelines will be provided as part of that formal notification.
We encourage staff, both within and outside these specific areas, to consider the VSP and to take advantage of the decision support services that HR will be providing. The VSP will be open for the full month of November, to provide employees with sufficient time to carefully weigh their personal options. I have asked all members of the Star’s management team to share information on possible workplace changes with staff during this time, so employees are as informed as possible when they make their decisions on the VSP.
Please review the attached material on the VSP and refer any questions to Human Resources staff. On behalf of the full executive team I thank all members of the Star’s staff for their continued commitment and dedication in these challenging times.
In his memo to employees, Cruickshank said the company had told the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union of plans to contract out some work.
The union has since issued it’s own statement denouncing the plan and saying it “betrays every principle the Star stands for.” The union said the Star informed it of the following changes:
The Star union head Maureen Dawson said in the release:
“It’s bad enough that the Star is turning its back on its own Atkinson principles to shed loyal employees. Star readers will be shocked to hear that core aspects of its daily journalism, that vital role in our society, are now to be farmed out, likely to foreign interests.
“Journalism is a collaborative effort, the product of a team of reporters, photographers and editors working in concert to produce the kind of activist agenda that has served Star readers and our community so well for so long. To remove a critical element of that work is to shortchange everyone who depends on it.”
A later Canadian Press report noted that Toronto Star spokesman Bob Hepburn declined to comment on the estimates due to confidentiality reasons.
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