Major Canadian publisher Postmedia has caused controversy this week after it was revealed the firm has handed out bonuses worth a total of almost $2.3 million – to just five senior execs.
According to financial documents filed on Wednesday, the company awarded CEO Paul Godfrey $900,000, CFO Doug Lamb $450,000, COO Andrew MacLeod $425,000, legal and general counsel Jeffrey Haar $300,000, and National Post president Gordon Fisher $200,000.
The bonuses were part of a retention plan to keep key employees with the company throughout its debt restructuring process and will be paid out over three instalments.
The first cash payment was distributed on July 15 and with the others to follow on December 2 and July 14. However, a representative from Postmedia admitted one of the executives was due to leave at the end of November.
Phyllise Gelfand, Postmedia's vice-president of communications, confirmed Jeffrey Haar would be departing but couldn’t say whether he was entitled to the next two instalments.
Now, unions representing Canadian journalists have demanded the five executives reject the bonuses as the struggling newspaper chain continues to reduce staff.
Martin O'Hanlon, the Communications Workers of America Canada President, labelled the move “an absolute disgrace” and said the executives were acting in an unconscionable manner by accepting money while asking workers to volunteer for buyouts or risk yet another round of layoffs.
A little over a month ago, the publishing firm announced it was looking to cut salary costs by 20 per cent and began offering its employees voluntary buyouts. The company has not yet announced whether the program reached that target, but has said layoffs may be necessary otherwise.
As of the end of August this year, Postmedia had 4,233 full-time equivalent employees – down from 4,733 a year prior. In January, the company laid off 90 people and merged newsrooms in four cities where it owns two newspapers in each market.
Despite the bonus, Godfrey's total compensation fell by nearly $100,000 for 2016, while that of the other four executives rose this year by $29,800 on the low end and $113,456 on the high end. Each of their base salaries remained the same as in 2015.
Last year, the five executives and Wayne Parrish, the company's former COO, received bonuses for their work when Postmedia acquired Sun Media's English-language newspapers and digital properties.
- Written with contribution from the Canadian Press