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CanWest freezes all hiring, salaries, travel

Faced with “significant advertising declines,” Canada’s biggest media corporation is in severe belt-tightening mode, judging from a memo circulated Friday to all employees by CanWest top executives Dennis Skulsky and Doug Lamb. Here is that memo, obtained by The Hook:

Date: January 23, 2009

To: All Canwest Publishing

From: Dennis Skulsky and Doug Lamb

Subject: Cost Control

As you know, our business is facing unprecedented pressure due to both the global economic downturn and challenges to our traditional publishing business. The recent voluntary buyout program and cost saving initiatives we have implemented are proving to not be enough to offset advertising revenue shortfalls. We are faced with significant advertising declines across the board but in particular in our employment, real estate and auto advertising categories. As a result, across our organization, teams are taking a hard look at how to affect the one lever we have absolute control over, our costs.

Following are a few initiatives underway and additional tactics that will contribute to our cost savings objectives:

A freeze on all hiring. All new hire requests – including replacement and backfill positions – must be approved by the appropriate publishing executive management committee member and the SVP People. Expenses for consultants, freelancers and contractors must be approved at the publisher/SVP level.

A freeze on salaries until the end of the fiscal year (September). Any exceptions must be approved by the President of Publishing.

A freeze on meals, catering and entertainment expenses. An immediate freeze on all food at meetings. This includes previously funded or subsidised coffee/snacks/drinks. Only expenses related to external customers and suppliers that are pre approved will be reimbursed. Approval for the expenses must be obtained in advance from a Publisher or SVP level executive.

Evaluation of marketing and promotional spends. All marketing and promotional activities will be reviewed and re-evaluated. Approval for the expenditures must be approved by a Publisher or SVP level executive.

Ceasing engagements with external consultants. Consultants should only be used for those limited instances where a specific expertise which does not reside within our organization is absolutely required.

A freeze on conference/seminar attendance. Attendance at any external conference must be approved by a Publisher or SVP level executive and is expected to be severely curtailed. At this time, all external training expenses are to be halted.

Equipment expense and capital purchases will be delayed unless absolutely necessary.

Limiting the use of mobile devices. All contracts are currently under review to ensure the appropriate service level with the objective of limiting data usage and reducing the number of units by 20-25%.

Reducing energy usage. Many companies, including our Network Ten in Australia have significantly reduced costs by better managing the use of energy and hydro.

Use discretion when printing. Whenever possible avoid printing unnecessary copies by reading on your desktop. Colour printing should be used only when necessary. When printing multiple pages, set printer defaults to double-sided output.

Subscriptions. Cancel those subscriptions which are not essential.

In addition, we are announcing a Voluntary Vacation Leave program. Any employee may make a request for unpaid vacation days between now and August 31st to their manager. Approval is at management’s discretion and based upon impact to the operation. This voluntary program will allow employees to take unpaid days in addition to their allotted paid vacation days for longer holidays or family time. Details of the program will be communicated next week.

We have also decided to suspend a number of our national employee events for this year including the Hockey Tournament, Sun Run, Slo-pitch tournament, Enlightened Leader sessions and Leadership Forum.

These critical measures must be taken to weather the current economic climate we’re doing business in. We appreciate all the efforts that have been taken by everyone during these difficult times.

Corporate and Broadcasting are taking similar measures, and in the coming week, your manager will be following up with you to discuss any further cost-control measures specific to your department.

The above list of measures is by no means exhaustive and we are sure there are many other measures that can be implemented to help reduce operating costs. Please feel free to share any additional ideas or thoughts you may have in this regard by e-mail at [email protected]. Just think, if every employee could save $1000, the collective savings would amount to 10,000,000!

Our overarching goal is to come out of this with stronger businesses that best position us for the future. Your involvement, support and hard work to maximize our cost savings initiatives are sincerely appreciated.

Dennis Skulsky President and CEO, Canwest Publishing

Doug Lamb Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Canwest Publishing

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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