Postmedia cuts harm B.C.'s public interest at crucial time

OTTAWA, March 13, 2017 /CNW/ - Two months before a provincial election and right in the middle of a cash-for-access scandal in British Columbia, Postmedia announced 54 layoffs at Vancouver's largest newspapers after another 38 staff opted to take voluntary buyouts. The immediate effect of these cuts is a less-informed city and province, said the Canadian Association of Journalists.

Phyllise Gelfand, Postmedia's vice-president for communications, blamed the layoffs at Vancouver's Sun and Province newsrooms on existing cost-cutting plans that aim to reduce salary costs across the chain by 20 per cent. But the timing is awful, said CAJ President Nick Taylor-Vaisey. "British Columbians will be poorer for a crucial lack of political reporting just when they need it most."

As Vancouverites learned that their city would have fewer journalists telling important stories in the public interest, non-unionized Postmedia employees learned the company was slashing significant benefits. Those reductions affected an Employee Assistance Program that provided "no charge, confidential, short-term counselling" for staff and their families.

Other affected benefits included those for certain retirees and top-ups for maternity and parental leave. The cuts dragged down staff morale during an already sensitive time. "Hard-working journalists have a difficult time stomaching these sort of cuts as Postmedia executives accept $2.3 million in bonuses," said Taylor-Vaisey. "The reporters who remain will do what they've done for years—more with less."

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing nearly 600 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide public-interest advocacy and high-quality professional development for its members.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For further information: Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ president, 647-968-2393, nick@caj.ca

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