Posted in Media, Opinion

Quebecor doesn’t inform when it doesn’t feel like it

Last week I told you about Quebecor’s new webpage where the media and telecom giant responds to criticism and perceived misinformation via open letter (instead of, say, responding to journalists’ queries).

Though I have issues with Quebecor’s way of dealing with news about itself (particularly its apparently systematic refusal to speak to journalists from Gesca and Radio-Canada, and to a lesser extent all other media as well), I thought this was a good step forward, that maybe the company would start interacting more with people and present its side of disputes more often.

Then, a few days later came the news that Quebecor was laying off 400 people across the country. This is a cull on the level of triple-digit job cuts two to three years ago by the CBC, CTV, Canwest and Rogers. And it’s about three years since an even larger cut at Sun Media decimated its workforce.

It’s hard to think of a way Quebecor could spin this positively, but they could probably talk about how this will affect their business, where the cuts will be concentrated, and what will happen to the workers.

Instead, the official response from Quebecor spokesperson Serge Sasseville was “no comment”. The “Quebecor vous informe” website is silent on the issue.

Canadian Press finally got he union to confirm the job cuts, half of which is through voluntary buyouts and another 100 through other forms of attrition, leaving only 100 people laid off. It’s still a significant cut, but at least some will be leaving on their own terms.

Had Sasseville decided he did want to comment and answer journalists’ questions, we might get an answer to why a company that just started up a 24-hour all-news network that depends heavily on the work produced by Quebecor’s existing print journalists is now making significant cuts to them. We might know why a company that seems to have no trouble making money feels the need to make such significant cuts in its workforce. We might know why the previous cut of 600 jobs only three years ago wasn’t good enough to bring efficiency to its operations.

But instead, we’ll just have to guess what those answers are, and it’s entirely possible those guesses will be wrong.

24 Heures cuts photo department

It’s unclear if these cuts are part of the 400, but news came out earlier this month that Quebecor’s free Montreal daily 24 Heures had fired its three photographers, eliminating its photo department, as well as a number of copy editors.

Quebecor wouldn’t confirm the news initially, but news came via social media, resulting in a blog post by former 24 Heures photographer Rogerio Barbosa, who quit his job there because the paper refused to pay his expenses. He then went to the Journal de Montréal, where he was locked out along with 252 others in January 2009. The newspaper he left, meanwhile, hired three people to replace them, apparently at a higher pay.

Barbosa’s blog post got picked up by Le Devoir’s Stéphane Baillargeon, who put this into context: Three photographers hired to replace one months before a lockout at the Journal de Montréal. During the lockout, many photos originally taken for 24 Heures got republished in the Journal. And then months after the lockout ends, suddenly all three photographers are fired.

It makes for a pretty strong circumstantial case that the three photographers were hired for the sole purpose of replacing locked-out Journal de Montréal photographers.

Nowadays, much of the photography appearing in Quebecor papers is done by Agence QMI, wire services, provided publicity photos or writers taking photos for their own stories.

(Baillargeon’s piece resulted in a reply from Quebecor’s Serge Sasseville, pointing out that 24 Heures still has eight journalists, two “journalistes-pupitreurs”, two editors and a designer. Sasseville said six people lost their jobs – three photographers and three editors (of whom four were permanent employees and two freelance).

One thought on “Quebecor doesn’t inform when it doesn’t feel like it

  1. Vahan

    I was formerly employed in the print business, worked for the other Quebec owned printer, and we always looked at Quebecor as a monster out to make money and spit out good employees. The other printer is not far behind in this business model. The bottom line is king. Also as a former CF Cable subscriber I was slowly sucked into getting all my services from Videotron. At first it was great, all my services bundled from one supplier, one bill and a break on each service if I went for the whole package. I was lulled into the stupor. Then the OWS people came out, and I started paying attention to what they were saying. We are basically feeding the beast that is spitting out great employees onto the roll of the needy, simply too feed their bottom line. So I first cut of mobile phone service with Videotron, got better service elsewhere, the next month it was my landline service that was decoupled from the Videotron beast. The VOIP I am using is $3.00 a month and free North American calls. Now I got rid of the Internet service from Videotron, went with TekSavvy. Wow,wow,wow. The service is faster, cheaper more reliable than the cable service I was getting from Videotron. Soon our cable T.V will be gone too and I will no longer be feeding the beast that is Quebecor. If everyone took these little steps and walked away with their money, the middle class would be in better shape. By the way we have not stepped into a Walmart since 2003, local shops give us great service and products to choose from. So when your neighbour is losing his/her job, their house is being sold off by the bank and your neighbourhood is becoming a wasteland (yes hyperbole, but it happened in the U.S) think of how your purchasing habits are responsible for this.

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