Shaw to downsize workforce, estimates about 650 will accept voluntary packages

TORONTO — Shaw Communications Inc. has launched a voluntary buyout program that it expects to be accepted by roughly 650 employees, as part of the cable, internet and wireless company’s efforts to adjust to a new technology landscape.

The Calgary-based company said Tuesday it has sent the offer to 6,500 employees and anticipated about 10 per cent of them will agree.

Details of the severance offers weren’t announced but the voluntary program for Shaw and Freedom Mobile employees will be open until Feb. 14.

Shaw said its job cuts are part of a multi-year initiative that will help it succeed amid technological changes — both internally at the operational level and externally in a rapidly changing and intensely competitive marketplace.

“We know our future success will require us to become a leaner, more integrated and more agile workforce, which will result in many internal changes taking place as we move towards becoming a digital-by-default organization,” Shaw president Jay Mehr said in a statement.

Among other updates, Shaw plans to make more use of online and smartphone apps to provide customer support and to provide more self-installed services, the company said.

According to Shaw’s annual report for the year ended Aug. 31, the company had 14,000 employees. Its 12-month profit from continuing operations was $557 million, or $851 million including discontinued operations.

For the three months ended Nov. 30, net income from continuing operations was $120 million, or $114 million after including discontinued operations.

During the company’s most recent quarterly conference call with analysts on Jan. 11, Mehr said that Shaw planned some “meaningful moves” on its operating model within “the next couple of weeks.”

A few days later, the company confirmed union reports that it would close a Freedom Mobile call centre in Windsor, Ont., on March 28, and consolidate all its customer care operations in a single location in Victoria — down from seven, prior to a previous reorganization begun in 2015.

Mehr said on the analyst call that the arrival of Apple products for the first time at Freedom — which has been updating its network to handle the iPhone — had transformed Shaw’s wireless business.

Mehr also told analysts that Shaw is working to deliver the next set of in-home wireline products that are digital, low-cost and self-serve.

Shaw — like several of Canada’s major cable companies — is in the early stages of updating its home video and internet offerings, which will be based on a technology pioneered by Comcast, a major U.S. cable company.

The company’s B shares rose a marginal 25 cents Tuesday to close at $26.98.

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