Univision Communications, the parent company of several major TV channels and news sites, is laying off between 200 and 250 workers as part of a company-wide restructuring, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The layoffs amount to 6 percent of the media company’s workforce, the Post reported.
The changes “are in response to difficult times, challenging times,” Isaac Lee, Univision Communications’ chief news, entertainment and digital officer, told the Post. The company lost $30.5 million in the third quarter of this year.
Univision Communications owns the popular Spanish-language television channel Univision as well as Fusion Media Group ― home to a cable channel and group of English-language news sites including Fusion.net, the African American-focused news site The Root, Gizmodo Media Group (the group of sites formerly known as Gawker Media) and Onion Inc., which produces The Onion.
“As part of a broader effort to streamline operations, we eliminated a number of positions in various areas of the Company,” Univision Communications said in a statement. “Over the next several months, we will be adding new positions to support strategic growth areas that will allow us to be better poised to serve our diverse audiences across platforms and meet the needs of our partners.”
Univision plans to bring The Root and Fusion under the umbrella of Gizmodo, according to a letter from Lee, who is also Fusion Media CEO, to Fusion staff about the changes.
The majority of the layoffs will be at Fusion.net, affecting both business and editorial employees, Fusion Media spokesman David Ford confirmed. No Gizmodo Media Group or Onion Inc. employees lost their jobs as a result of the changes, he said.
The layoffs and restructuring are intended to avoid duplication after the company acquired several large new sites, according to Ford. Fusion Media acquired 40 percent of Onion Inc. in January for just under $200 million and bought the sites that would become Gizmodo Media in August for $135 million.
The shakeup follows a successful union drive at Fusion. Fusion’s editorial staff voted overwhelmingly last week to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East, after prolonged resistance from management.
The Root’s staff members signed cards electing the Writers Guild as their collective bargaining representative in October and have yet to receive a response from management.
“We are in the process of addressing the request for representation by the digital editorial employees at The Root,” Lee wrote in the letter to staff.
Gizmodo’s employees unionized with the Writers Guild in June 2015 and ratified a collective bargaining contract that remained in effect when Univision bought the company. (The Huffington Post’s management voluntarily recognized its staff’s unionization with the Writers Guild in January.)
The layoffs affect 15 Fusion.net workers who recently unionized, including some staff members active in the organizing effort.
Ford, the Fusion spokesman, emphasized that the restructuring was made purely for strategic business reasons in the wake of the company’s acquisitions, and firmly denied that the layoffs had anything to do with the unionization.
Lee told the Post that he was not opposed to workers choosing to join a union.
He also wrote in his letter that laid-off Fusion staff, unionized or not, would receive severance benefits “consistent” with those in Gizmodo employees’ collectively bargained contract, despite the fact that Fusion’s contract negotiations have yet to begin.
Fusion management has respected the outcome of its employees’ union election. But prior to that, the company refused to voluntarily recognize the union and executives held mandatory closed-door meetings with employees to dissuade them from unionizing.
Regardless of what the future holds, Univision’s layoffs are the latest blow to a digital media industry that has undergone wrenching changes and a string of mass layoffs in the past year alone. HuffPost, Vice and Mashable have all laid off staff since January in efforts to remain competitive in a shifting media landscape.
In October, The Wall Street Journal announced it would seek “substantial” buyouts from staff in an attempt to pre-empt layoffs it expects will be necessary.