Shaw Sloughs Off 650 Staffers

Canada's second-biggest cable and broadband provider offers buyouts to 6,500 employees, aiming to trim its workforce by about 10% as it seeks to restructure its operations and boost profits.

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

January 31, 2018

3 Min Read
Shaw Sloughs Off 650 Staffers

Add Shaw Communications to the list of major cable and telecom players downsizing its workforce and restructuring its operations as it seeks to adapt to changes in the market.

Shaw Communications Inc. -- the second-largest cable and broadband provider and fourth largest mobile operator in Canada -- announced plans Tuesday to lay off about 650 employees, or nearly 5% of its staff, over the next couple of months as part of a broader drive "to reinvent its operating model to better meet the changing tastes and expectations of consumers and businesses."

Accordingly, the company sent out "voluntary departure program" offers to 6,500 of its 14,000 employees, with the hope that about 10% of them will accept the severance packages. Employees have until February 14 to say yea or nay to the offers.

In the company's official announcement, Shaw President Jay Mehr explained that the planned layoffs are the first part of a multi-year "total business transformation initiative" designed to enable the company to execute quicker, function more efficiently and connect Canadians to the world better than before. More specifically, he said, Shaw aims to refocus its operations toward providing more services through online portals, smartphone apps and self-install options, rather than relying as heavily on customer call centers and truck rolls by cable technicians.

"As good as our customer service and operations are today, we see that we have to make some significant changes to serve customers the way they expect to be served in 2018 and beyond," Mehr said in a written statement. "Our agents in contact centres and our technicians will still be able to deal with more complex questions and situations, but we are committed to listening better to our customers and changing our operating model to better suit their preferences for services when they want and how they want it."

Shaw did not say how it picked the targeted 6,500 workers. But, in a reported memo to employees, it did say that "customer-facing employees in customer care, retail and sales and their direct leaders will not be eligible for this program."

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The staff layoffs follow similar, albeit smaller, workforce cutbacks over the past several years by Shaw as it has sold off its Global Television Network and specialty TV networks and invested heavily in wireless by buying Freedom Mobile. In other recent staff attrition moves, the company cut 400 jobs while streamlining and restructuring operations in 2014 and eliminated other positions while consolidating its call center operations in 2015. Most recently, the union representing Freedom Mobile employees said another 130 call center jobs would be lost as part of further consolidation by the company.

The latest restructuring drive also comes after Shaw reported first-quarter 2018 earnings earlier this month that showed healthy growth in the wireless sector but subscriber and revenue losses on the core cable side of the business. In particular, Shaw continues to shed cable video customers despite the widely promoted launch last year of its cloud-based BlueSky TV service, which is based on Comcast's trail-blazing X1 platform. (See Shaw Takes X1 Live With BlueSky TV and Comcast's Canadian Takeover Continues.)

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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