The largest newspaper chain in Atlantic Canada has laid off 109 people.
Saltwire Network confirmed the news in a media release late Tuesday afternoon. This comes almost three months to the day the company announced “temporary layoffs” of 40% of its workforce due to economic fallout from COVID-19.
“The staff notified today have contributed to Saltwire’s mission to provoke thought and action for the betterment of our communities in innumerable ways and they will be greatly missed,” Ian Scott, chief operating officer and executive vice-president for the Saltwire Network, said in the release.
The 109 permanent layoffs include 61 people in Nova Scotia, 25 employees in Newfoundland and Labrador, and another 23 in P.E.I.
The media release states that “just under half” were laid off immediately. The rest were given notice that they’ll be laid off “in the future.”
“Like hundreds of media outlets in North America, Saltwire is feeling the impact of the pandemic. As businesses closed and customers stayed home, advertising plummeted,” Tuesday’s statement said. “The loss has cost the company millions in revenue to date without expected improvement in the coming months.”
On March 24, the company’s president and CEO Mark Lever addressed readers about what were then temporary layoffs in a letter posted online. He noted that the economic ripple effect of the pandemic hit the local newspaper media industry “faster and far more aggressively” than they could have planned or anticipated.
As Tim Bousquet wrote on March 25, the company’s cuts three months ago were “huge and draconian.” In addition to temporarily laying off 240 people, the production of all weekly publications (both free and paid-for) in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia were suspended for 12 weeks.
In Tuesday’s statement, Saltwire said employees “have been brought back” since the March 24 temporary layoffs, but added “several people remain on a temporary layoff list.”
While some of those 240 people who were temporarily laid off in March did return to work in recent weeks, 109 of them weren’t so lucky.
“There are folks in editorial, sales, production and just about every department impacted,” said a Saltwire employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The employee said that as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, they still hadn’t been told the full extent of the layoffs. The media release came out shortly afterwards.
“When 40% were temporarily laid off, there was the notion that hopefully everyone would be back by the end of June,” the source said.
“Some came back before then, but it looks like 109 of those won’t be at all.”
Ironically, over the weekend an article that ran in The Telegram (a Saltwire daily newspaper in Newfoundland and Labrador) noted that “many sectors will see temporary layoffs become permanent in Atlantic Canada.”
Saltwire includes its two editorial employees in Sackville, N.B. as part of its Nova Scotia operation. The weekly Sackville Tribune-Post is one of only two weeklies in New Brunswick that is not owned by the Irvings. The other is the Saint Croix Courier of St. Stephen, N.B. The Tribune-Post ceased publication along with other Saltwire weeklies in March.
Did this company get federal help?
Anything online is winner-take-all, and now that news is online…
This is such sad news. In my opinion, we need journalists and all the support staff required to publish, whether online or in print form, more than ever. I am so sorry to see these 109 become the first in what may become many if The Telegram article proves to be correct.