In a memo on Wednesday, Toronto Star union chair Stuart Laidlaw says radio room reporter salaries could be cut by approximately 20 per cent. The radio room costs about $250,000 to run annually.

By Tamara Baluja

The Toronto Star union proposed cutting radio room reporter salaries by 20 per cent as an alternative to outsourcing the work.

The Star’s radio room is staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week by students who work part-time on 8-hour shifts. These reporters monitor emergency scanners, television, radio and online news as well as social media, filing breaking stories and updates for the website as well as reporting stories for the newspaper. The decision to outsource was one of the many similar announcements made by management on March 4.

In a memo on Wednesday, union chair Stuart Laidlaw says radio room reporter salaries could be cut down from approximately $25 per hour to $20 per hour. The box, as the radio room is often referred as, costs about $250,000 to run annually.

“Management’s plan to kill the newsroom’s radio room in particular made no economic or journalistic sense,” Laidlaw said in the memo.

“Your union has a special fondness for the radio room, because it was entirely the Guild’s idea to staff it with cheaper students, back in the late ‘90s […] For the first time in Star history, nobody would be in the newsroom overnight. We’d be relying on some outside agency to perform the critical service of identifying and even covering breaking local news — our proverbial bread ‘n’ butter, the core of our Toronto Star brand. All to save some portion of the radio room’s annual $250,000 cost.


The memo states the company’s early response to the proposal has been positive. Students have already been hired for the summer 2013 term. It remains unclear what will happen to those student contracts if the radio room is outsourced.

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Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.