Sun Media newspapers cut 500 jobs

Quebecor Inc. is cutting about 500 jobs at its Sun Media newspaper division in a move that includes closing two production facilities in Ontario as it copes with lower advertising revenue.

The cuts represent some 10 per cent of Sun Media's workforce and are part of an effort to reduce annual costs by $45 million.

"Although our circulation revenue has stabilized due to strategic pricing increases, the advertising sector continues to experience declines through the news and media industry," chief executive Pierre Karl Peladeau said Tuesday.

"Newspapers across the world have been impacted in the last 10 years by the introduction of new technologies, changing dramatically the incumbents of printing products," Peladeau noted.

The Journal de Montreal and the Journal de Quebec now have paywalls for online readers, he said, adding that the rest of Quebecor's major publications will add paywalls before the end of this year.

During the conference call, Peladeau was not specific about the number of employees who will lose their jobs, saying "several hundred employees" will be leaving Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B).

"I would like to mention that I feel very sad for the numerous redundancies we were forced to implement in our newspaper division."

A news release from Quebecor put the number at about 500, and identified the production plants to be shuttered as being in Ottawa and Kingston.

"In addition, we will further optimize and consolidate all our industrial operations from pre-press to printing, transportation and distribution into fewer centres of excellence," it said.

The company's website says it has "ultra modern" printing facilities in Mirabel, Que., and suburban Toronto, which serve local, regional and national markets.

Quebecor will also "dispose or shut down all non-core activities" to reduce costs, said Peladeau.

There also had been earlier reports Quebecor would eliminate the position of publisher at some newspapers. Peladeau, again, did not provide details.

"We eliminated several layers of management to streamline our processes, reduce our costs and bring decision-making closer to the local markets."

"Clearly, this is a blow to journalism in Canada," said Paul Morse, head of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, which represents some of Sun Media's employees.

"The erosion of these kinds of jobs is a significant problem for newspapers that are going to be dealing with trying to put out quality journalism with workforces that are clearly stretched beyond the limit," Morse said.

"This is a terrible day for journalism in Canada."

Sun Media has 36 paid-circulation daily newspapers and six free daily newspapers as well as almost 200 community newspapers, shopping guides and other specialty publications. It also provides commercial printing and related services as well as distribution for newspapers, flyers and magazines.

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