Tablet layoffs heartbreaking says 87-M prez

Unifor Local 87-M is saddened and frustrated by yet another blow to our membership and to quality journalism in Canada.

Torstar News Service announced this week that 30 staff will lose their jobs when the company discontinues the Toronto Star Touch tablet product and replaces it with a universal app that will be available on tablets and smartphones as of August 1. Torstar says the work for the app will be created by the Star digital team. Of the layoffs, 17 affected workers are represented by Local 87-M.

While the news was not completely unexpected, the newsroom is losing talented staff that the company could have made more of an effort to relocate to other newsroom roles, says Unifor 87-M President Paul Morse.

“The traditional newspaper business model is breaking down and we applaud the Star for having taken the initiative with a new digital product, even though it didn’t work out,” he said.

“But it’s heartbreaking to see even more talented news people lose their jobs.”

In an internal memo to staff, Torstar CEO John Boynton wrote that “while Toronto Star Touch is an editorial success and has developed a loyal audience since its launch in 2015, the overall numbers of readers and advertising volumes are significantly lower than what the company had forecast and than what are required to make it a commercial success.”

The Star modelled their tablet product after a similar offering by La Presse. The French-language tablet app will completely replace that company’s print offerings as of December. However, the numbers for Toronto Star Touch did not translate as well in the English-language market.

In the last round of contract negotiations, the Star’s union bargaining committee successfully brought the tablet workers into the collective agreement, ensuring them a decent severance and notice time to look for new work.