Toronto Star to cut 55 jobs, considers outsourcing layout

TORONTO – Economic pressures have prompted the Toronto Star to plan staff cuts of up to five per cent and consider outsourcing the bulk of its page production work, the company announced Monday.

Spokesman Bob Hepburn said the country’s largest daily newspaper is currently in discussions to transfer most of its print page design operations to Pagemasters North America, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Canadian Press.

Hepburn said no deal has been reached so far, adding the paper is open to proposals from the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union that would keep the work in-house.

Hepburn said the paper is planning to eliminate a total of 55 positions from its staff of nearly 1,000, adding most of the cuts will come from the editorial department. Some of those jobs could be saved if the company reaches a deal with the union, he said.

Some jobs have already been cut in the Human Resources department, while layoff notices are pending in advertising, he said.

Hepburn said the Star will be meeting with the CEP to discuss reaching the job reduction target in part through voluntary buyouts.

“These are tough times in the newspaper business as you’ve seen already in Canada,” Hepburn said in a telephone interview. “We’re trying to do everything we can to protect the editorial side of our business.”

In an internal memo to Star employees, publisher John Cruickshank lamented the need for layoffs while describing the cuts as necessary for the paper’s survival.

“No large metropolitan news organization in North America has been spared the intense revenue pressures that we face,” he said. “It is essential that we act in a responsible manner now to secure our long-term future.”

Paul Morse, president of CEP local 87-M that represents the Star’s employees, said the union plans to fight the newspaper’s efforts to outsource page production work.

The company made the same proposal in 2010 only to keep most of the work in-house after reorganizing their operations and finding other ways to cut costs, he said, adding the union plans to table similar alternatives this time around.

“If you start shipping out this kind of work, you’re basically losing all the things that make papers like the Toronto Star such integral institutions,” Morse said.

The Canadian Press — which is jointly owned by the parent companies of the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and Montreal La Presse — started operating Pagemasters North America in 2009.