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Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey

Darren Calabrese

The newly re-branded Postmedia Network Inc. has begun cutting jobs at its newspapers.

The company recently announced a voluntary buyout program to attempt to cut costs, according to an internal memo sent to staff at the Victoria Times Colonist on Thursday.

Memos were also sent on the same day offering buyouts to staff at The Ottawa Citizen and the Pacific Newspaper Group, a division of Postmedia that publishes The Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province.

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Reports suggest buyouts have also been offered at the Montreal Gazette.

Layoffs have also occurred. According to sources close to the matter, roughly 20 jobs were cut last week at the Edmonton Journal, including some part-time positions. The same source said roughly 30 jobs were cut this week at the Calgary Herald, some of them also part-time. Cuts were made at the Herald in all departments, a source said. Both papers are non-unionized.

Postmedia would not confirm numbers, but did say there have been layoffs and buyout offers at some papers. Another source with knowledge of the matter said the company is looking to cut roughly $40-million in costs. Depending on the number of employees who accept buyouts, layoffs could follow, that person said.

"Every paper is examining how they do business, and what their revenue streams and cost makeup is," Postmedia chief executive officer Paul Godfrey said in an interview. The company's fiscal year ended Aug. 31. "Everybody's preparing their budgets [for this year]based upon where we want to take these papers on a going-forward basis. They're making restructuring decisions at the local level."

The newspapers, formerly owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp., emerged from creditor protection in July, after the 11 large dailies such as the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen, along with 35 smaller community papers and a network of websites, were sold for $1.1-billion to a group of the company's unsecured lenders.

According to the newspaper division's annual report under CanWest ownership, the newspapers already cut 797 jobs, or 13 per cent of the work force, in 2009. It currently employs roughly 5,500 people across the company. The current cuts are aiming for a reduction of 200 to 220 more jobs, a source said.

"Recovery from the depressed economic conditions has been slower than anticipated, leading to reduced revenue projections while operating expenses continue to increase," Times Colonist publisher Bob McKenzie wrote to staff. "This has resulted in us having to take action in order to confront these economic challenges."

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The union representing some employees at the Postmedia dailies released a statement on Thursday calling the job reductions "appalling."

"We could have newspapers lose a substantial percentage of their newsrooms, which would withdraw all the skill and ability out of producing news for local communities," Peter Murdoch, vice-president of media for the Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada, said in an interview.

"As all media companies are doing, we're looking for ways to meet the future, and that's going to take some transformation," said Postmedia spokesperson Phyllise Gelfand. "And it will involve people."

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