No warning before axe fell

JOYANNE PURSAGA - Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 3:14 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Some of Citytv's most familiar local faces arrived at work to find their shows cancelled and jobs eliminated yesterday.

Bell Globe Media bought their parent company, CHUM Ltd. and immediately laid off more than two-dozen staff -- including three news anchors and two sports anchors.

Citytv's 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts were abruptly cancelled.

"It's just a complete betrayal by the corporate level," said Jason Morris, the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers' union's local president. "I just don't see the logic for destroying the station."

Staff gathered at a Forks restaurant yesterday afternoon to cry, hug and dine after 26 of about 100 local employees were laid off.

A second round of cuts takes effect on Jan. 1, 2007, bringing the total to 49 positions in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie and Brandon.

Chantal Desjardins, a sports reporter and weekend anchor, said the cuts came without warning.

"It was a shock because there was not even a whisper of it," said Desjardins. "Coming in to work today, the only concern I had was who I was going to interview."

A few more employees may get "bumped" out of their jobs during the next five days if three or so more senior staff choose to stay, according to the union.

News reporter Andrea Slobodian will keep her job but said it was difficult to see so many talented people go.

"It's hard to see colleagues you know work so hard, now be out of a job," said Slobodian. "This was totally sprung on us. I think everyone's in shock."

Employees were sent to two separate meetings at noon. Those at the Hampton Inn were told they were safe, while those who met at the station were let go.

Staff said one worker was accidentally sent to the wrong meeting, and later discovered he was jobless.

Writer Sarah Schellenberg knew something was wrong when she arrived at work to find her electronic key card no longer opened a staff door to the building.

She said employees were given no rationale for the job cuts.

"We don't know how they're basing this and how they're doing the rest of the cuts," said Schellenberg.

Michelle Stead, an assignment editor who had worked for the station for seven years, also lost her job yesterday. She said the station's removal from local news ends a Manitoba tradition.

"This company has Manitoba roots that were bought out by bigger and bigger companies," said Stead.


Videos

Photos