Posted in Media

Postmedia outsourcing Gazette printing to Transcontinental

You’ve probably already heard this news, but just for the record, Postmedia announced this week that it is outsourcing the printing of The Gazette to TC Transcontinental Printing, beginning August 2014. (Transcontinental has its own press release.) The decision will mean the layoff of 54 full-time employees and 61 casual employees. (Transcontinental says it doesn’t need additional resources to take on the Gazette contract.)

Unlike editorial, advertising, reader sales and business office employees, which are represented by the Montreal Newspaper Guild, a local of CWA-SCA Canada, the plant employees are represented by a local of the Teamsters union.

This will also mean the same of the presses, the building and the land it sits on, with the money from it going to pay down Postmedia’s debt. Whether its vocation as a printing press remains depends on who buys it, but there isn’t much optimism of that happening. So expect that land on St-Jacques St. W. in N.D.G. to be repurposed for some industrial or commercial purpose.

Since I’m an employee of The Gazette, I won’t go much into detail about this decision. Even though I’ve never met most of the people at the plant in person, I haven’t had any bad experiences with them either. Same thing for Transmag, the Anjou-based printing plant that will put out The Gazette. I worked with them a decade ago when I was editor of The Link at Concordia University. Deadline was a fluid concept to us, but thankfully they were much more reliable than we were.

Transmag is unionized, by the way. Their current contract goes until October 2015, and the details of it are here.

15 thoughts on “Postmedia outsourcing Gazette printing to Transcontinental

  1. David Pinto

    This is sad news for me. Having worked as a copy person in the newsroom from August, 1968 until the end of 2007, I worked with the pressmen and the paperhandlers on a daily basis, first in the 1000 Ste. Antoine St. W. building, and then in the 250 St. Antoine St. W. building.

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  2. Fr. George

    As I recall the offset presses in the NDG plant weren’t new when the Gazette bought them. I think they came from the paper in Calgary which had gone off offset long before the Gazette and wanted to upgrade. I think I also recall that the Gazette ran into all kinds of quality control issues and it was months before the product met quality standards

    George

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  3. Paul h

    Not surprising at all. The outsourced paper will save a ton of money. Too bad that the unions arent seeing the writing on the wall.

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  4. Dilbert

    Postmedia isn’t doing all the right things (because they are still losing money) but this is actually a step in the right direction, at least for the moment. One of the major cost drivers in the newspaper business is the legacy of overly generous labor agreements and shop work rules from the fat times. Nobody considered what would happens when you don’t need as many people, when you don’t need as big a space, and so on. The Gazoo and many other papers across the country ended up with high cost centers, low productivity, and an endless need to update and maintain their equipment and facilities.

    Outsourcing this part of the job is extremely smart, making the paper much more flexible and able to adjust with the times. Getting these costs under control and to a more fixed level makes a lot of sense.

    I feel for the people who have lost their jobs, but they honestly need to look no further than their union and their work rules to understand why they are no longer financial a viable part of the organization.

    Yes, TC is unionized. However, they are not limited to printing a single product or working with outdated work rules and staffing requirements. They are well paid, fairly paid, but do not come with a legacy system which makes them too expensive to have working. At the point where TC becomes unworkable, another printing company will come along willing to do the work for the right price, and the process restarts.

    Good on Postmedia for facing up to reality. Perhaps a profitable bottom line might come one day.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      I feel for the people who have lost their jobs, but they honestly need to look no further than their union and their work rules to understand why they are no longer financial a viable part of the organization.

      What specifically about their “work rules” do you feel has made them non-viable?

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      1. Dilbert

        I don’t have the specifics of the contact in front of me, but in general the “fat times” work rules might include things like minimum staffing requirements that has more people working that truly needed. It might include things like paying people to work hours that they don’t actually work, in the case that a printing run takes say 6 hours but you pay for 8, things like that. It can also be retaining people in jobs that are outmoded or no longer truly required, or paying a “skilled tradesman” to do a job that can now be done with a lesser skilled worker and a computer, example.

        Work rules that also don’t allow the paper to print anything other than the paper, or might otherwise make it difficult to be flexible in operations. Like I said, I don’t have the specific contract in my hands, I can only go by stories I have read, your own comments during labor negotiations, and the like.

        When the Sunday paper was dropped, do you think it was easy to do, or do you think that work rules and the union contract might have required that people were paid not to print the paper?

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          I don’t have the specifics of the contact in front of me, but in general the “fat times” work rules might include things like minimum staffing requirements that has more people working that truly needed.

          And it might include flying monkeys too. To be clear, you’re basing your judgment of these workers on caricatures of union contracts you’ve heard about?

          When the Sunday paper was dropped, do you think it was easy to do, or do you think that work rules and the union contract might have required that people were paid not to print the paper?

          I’m not aware of how easy it was for management to deal with the logistical issues of ending the Sunday paper, but I never heard of any union issues associated with it. I suspect there was less use of casual employees, but otherwise I can’t say. The pressmen belong to a different union than I do.

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          1. Dilbert

            Steve, as always, you manage to be a dick in cases like this, likely because the issue is hitting way too close to home and you don’t want to see it.

            I have followed the labor negotiations and work rules issues for years at the Gazette, and I know very well that every time there is a negotiation, the management side is looking to significantly cut back the number of workers, and the union pushes back. I seem to remember an issue with old style typesetters that were kept on even after their jobs pretty much stopped existing.

            I would suggest rather than getting all huffy about it, that you take a little time and go look at the situation, and look all the way back to the 70s and 80s when insane work rules and rich wage increases were the order of the day. 100+ plus workers just to print the paper seems like a lot of people, and that the new printer can do it without taking on any new staff should be a good indication of where things stand.

            How about looking at it rather than assuming that it’s not an issue? Or are you just going to ignore the history of the (dying) industry you work in?

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            1. Fagstein Post author

              I seem to remember an issue with old style typesetters that were kept on even after their jobs pretty much stopped existing.

              There was a longstanding labour issue with typesetters that was eventually settled. Those that didn’t take on other jobs didn’t keep working for the company, though.

              look all the way back to the 70s and 80s when insane work rules

              I don’t see how that’s relevant here. Lots of things were different 40 years ago. The fact that something happened in the past does not prove it exists in the present.

              100+ plus workers just to print the paper seems like a lot of people

              Most of those workers are part-time. And the number of jobs doesn’t seem outrageous considering the industry.

              How about looking at it rather than assuming that it’s not an issue?

              I’m not assuming anything. I’m challenging your baseless assertion that this is all because the union is greedy and has abused its power.

              I’m not saying that outsourcing to Transcontinental is necessarily a bad idea. It’s a large company and printing is its thing, so it’s very efficient at it. But it’s simplistic and unfair to blame the union without any evidence.

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              1. Dilbert

                “I don’t see how that’s relevant here. Lots of things were different 40 years ago. The fact that something happened in the past does not prove it exists in the present.”

                In the union world, what happened 40 years ago is VERY relevant, because everything is “previous contact plus”. It’s very rare to see anything unionized go the other direction. It’s only when the ship is truly sinking and everyone is standing with water up to their armpits that unions generally start to accept concessions. So basically, what happened 40 years ago (and 30,20,and 10) all add up to a high spot that the union has slowly come away from.

                I am sure that Postmedia management looked at how much movement there has been at each step, and how big a move would have to happen to be able to keep printing in house, and realized that it was a gap too big.

                “Most of those workers are part-time. And the number of jobs doesn’t seem outrageous considering the industry.”

                That’s more justification, not explaining. It’s a very high number of people considering the work to be done overall, and that TC can take on the work without adding staff says a whole lot.

                ” it’s simplistic and unfair to blame the union without any evidence.”

                The evidence is there. The 40 years of history that you don’t think is relevant is in fact one of the largest millstones that the industry has to carry with it. Just like the auto workers, everything has been “previous position plus” for so long, that the costs of labor are completely off the charts. In the fat times management agreed to avoid problems. When the lean times come, the unions are loath to give up the advantages and advantageous work rules that they have established.

                The only solution most of the time is a total reset. Sending the printing to TC instead of doing it in house accomplishes that goal perfectly. It also allows Postmedia to continue with it’s sale of real estate assets to try desperately to return the bottom line to normalcy. It’s all about removing legacy costs and trying to base the business on a more current, outsourced and centralized model with much, much lower overhead.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                It’s a very high number of people considering the work to be done overall

                What’s an appropriate number of employees for a daily newspaper’s printing press?

                that TC can take on the work without adding staff says a whole lot.

                It says that TC is huge. And it is. It’s Canada’s largest printer.

              3. Dilbert

                “What’s an appropriate number of employees for a daily newspaper’s printing press?”

                I wouldn’t know the number in any exact form, but I do know at the last two negotiations the management side wanted to reduce the number significantly and were unable to reach such an agreement.

                That the number of people printing the paper is a significant portion of the total payroll is an issue. Love it or hate it, it is becoming more and more clear that printed papers are a legacy distribution method, not entirely doomed to die but perhaps no more relevant than vinyl records are. Yes, some people will want it, but over time, less of a desirable option for all sorts of reasons (including environmental issues). While I am sure that Postmedia could have waited for the next contract negotiations to try to reduce the work force and try to make things work a little better, I think that they have seen the light and realize that having all of these things in house is expensive, and the staff and staffing rules a negative to the bottom line. Outsourcing with a longer term eye towards a future that likely has less printed copies is key to survival here.

  5. John

    I’ve just entered the printing field and this story interests me. I’d like to know how TC doesn’t need any more employees or equipment to print a new set of newspapers everyday…?

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’d like to know how TC doesn’t need any more employees or equipment to print a new set of newspapers everyday…?

      TC is Canada’s largest printing company and produces lots of newspapers, including such big ones as La Presse and the Globe and Mail. So it’s not that difficult to fit another newspaper into that mix. (Or two, if you include Quebec editions of the National Post, which the Gazette printing presses also produced.)

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      1. John

        I understand, but the Gazette will be printed at just the one TC plant in Anjou. So they can just easily do a job that took 54+ employees at another company without any additional employees or equipment? I’m not too familiar with many types of printing presses. Are there presses that can run more than one print file at once (The Gazette, La Presse, Globe and Mail, etc.) ?

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