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Torstar in talks for new round of buyouts

A pedestrian walks past a Toronto Star newspaper box in front of the Toronto Star building at One Yonge Street in Toronto.

REUTERS/Mark Blinch/REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The publisher of the Toronto Star is in negotiations to offer another round of buyouts to employees at its flagship paper, in order to cut costs.

Senior executives at Torstar Corp. are in negotiations with union representatives to offer voluntary severance packages, company spokesperson Bob Hepburn said on Thursday. Since negotiations are ongoing, he would not comment on how many positions the company is hoping to cut or which parts of the company would be affected.

Buyouts have not yet been offered directly to staff, but publisher John Cruickshank held a town hall to discuss the plans with staff on Thursday morning.

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"The company is in talks with the union right now about a voluntary separation program, but it has not been formally announced yet," Mr. Hepburn said.

According to a union representative, the buyouts would be offered across the newspaper's operations, including editorial positions as well as advertising and layout staff. The Star has roughly 500 employees, just over half of which are newsroom staff.

"We're concerned that we might be whittling away at our ability to put out the kind of Toronto Star we want to put out," said Stuart Laidlaw, unit chair at The Star for the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild. "...You're not cutting fat any more. You're cutting to the bone."

The buyouts would be another step in a sustained effort to cut costs at the Toronto-based publisher of newspapers, Harlequin romance novels, and websites. In 2009, Torstar undertook what it called "the biggest restructuring of the Star's work force in its history," through layoffs and buyouts in every part of the organization.

In January, 2010, Torstar had plans to outsource a number of editing and pagination jobs at its flagship newspaper, but cancelled those plans after reaching a deal with the union. That saved roughly 35 of 78 editing jobs slated to go, but the rest were cut through layoffs and buyouts.

A large part of the Star's circulation call centre was also outsourced in 2007, with that work moving to Halifax and some to India.

Torstar has roughly 6,600 employees in total.

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