The Toronto Star told staff on Monday that it intends to cut jobs and outsource copy editing and print page production in the face of revenue challenges that have become commonplace in the newspaper industry.

The Toronto Star told staff on Monday that it intends to cut jobs and outsource print production in the face of revenue challenges that have become commonplace in the newspaper industry.

In a memo to staff (posted in full below), Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank outlined that the newspaper has informed the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents Star staff, of its intention to outsource page production and most print design work to Pagemasters North America.

“These are difficult steps to take,” Cruickshank wrote. “The loss of valued, close colleagues will be challenging to all, and we will need to tap into our shared commitment to the Star’s mission and purpose as we navigate these challenging times.” 

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

These sentiments were echoed by Michael Cooke, the paper’s editor, in his own memo to staff, which The Globe and Mail’s Steve Ladurantaye posted in full.

“It is never easy to take decisions that reduce or eliminate staff,” Cooke wrote “But the real-life business challenges we face (you know what they are, you read the same stories I do) are brutal and require action.

“Doing nothing — or doing ‘trims’ — is not an option. It's a death sentence.”

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Cruickshank noted in his memo that the paper would “provide the union with the details of our business case for contracting out, and seriously consider any alternatives the union may wish to present.” He continued, saying the Star intends to offer voluntary buyouts to staff before issuing formal layoffs.

In all, the Star is looking to lay off 55 employees in its editorial, advertising and human resources departments, Ladurantaye reported in The Globe.

Pagemasters is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Canadian Press that provides production services that includes pagination, sub-edits, layout and copy for common pages such as stock quotes and sports listings. (The Canadian Press is, in turn, owned in part by the Star’s parent company Torstar, The Globe and Mail, and Square Victoria Communications Group, parent company of La Presse through subsidiary Gesca.)

Managing director Ed Brouwer told J-Source that Pagemasters currently employs about 20 journalists—eight of which are full-time—who provide production services for 22 titles. Pagemasters would need to hire more people if it were to take on the Star’s proposed production services, Brouwer said, though he stressed such moves would not be made before the paper and its union had worked through the necessary processes.

Three years ago, the Star moved to contract out page production and copy editing services, but the union worked with the paper to find an alternative, and saved some of the 78 jobs that had been slated to be cut.