Police lay charges after anti-lockdown rally at Yonge-Dundas Square

Toronto police arrested 10 people and charged seven of them after an anti-lockdown rally took place at Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday.

Protests against health measures took place at Nathan Phillips Square, Yonge-Dundas Square and Queen’s Park, police said. The protests lasted for several hours and were not stopped by police right away.

The province has imposed a stay-at-home order and declared a second state of emergency, prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than five people in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Police on Saturday charged Alice Mullins, 51, James Kerr, 57, Jake Elliott Begumart, 27, and Matthew Hayley, 24, with obstructing a police officer.

Robert Keith Bruce, 72, was charged with obstructing a peace officer and assaulting police.

Christopher Saccoccia, 38, was charged with common nuisance and four counts of public mischief, and Iola Fortino, 57, was charged with common nuisance.

Zena Salem is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Reach her via email: zsalem@thestar.ca — With files from The Canadian Press

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Finnish restaurant giant to cut 55 jobs, temporarily lay off 600 employees

NOHO PARTNERS, a company operating more than 200 restaurants in Finland, has announced its decision to eliminate 55 positions, temporarily lay off around 600 employees and convert 15 positions from permanent to temporary.

The cost-cutting measures were ironed out in consultative negotiations initiated by the restaurant giant with its entire staff of 1,300 in October 2020.

The exact number of temporarily laid off employees and the duration of the lay-offs will be specified at a later date.

Noho Partners said the aim of the statutory process was to re-organise its organisation primarily in regard to management and supervisory duties. The positions to be cut include management positions, administrative restaurant positions and expert positions in sales and marketing.

The company argued last autumn that the cost-cutting measures are required due to the strict measures adopted to combat the coronavirus epidemic in Finland. The goal of the measures, it said, was to minimise the financial effects of the pandemic and adjust its operations to the decline in volume caused by the restrictions.

Noho Partners’ restaurants in Finland include Elite, Savoy and Stefan’s Steakhouse.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Japan’s fiscal hawks lay low despite record budget blowout

TOKYO — As Japan readies a record 106 trillion yen ($1.02 trillion) budget for fiscal 2021, the ruling party’s fiscal conservatives have fallen silent, choosing not to block pandemic relief that could deliver a win for the party in a general election next year.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agree that generous spending is needed to support an economy pummeled by the pandemic. But now the country’s long-term goal of fiscal consolidation appears to be under threat. 

Two separate meetings on Dec. 8 illustrate this point. On the agenda was the government’s budget policy for fiscal 2021, which conspicuously dropped the target of achieving a primary surplus in fiscal 2025. The goal of balancing the budget excluding debt-servicing costs had been included in the policy each previous year.

A robust debate had been anticipated at the General Council meeting, even if none actually voiced outright opposition. The council, the LDP’s top decision-making body, includes members such as Takeshi Noda and Yoichi Miyazawa, fiscal hawks who spent part of their careers in the Finance Ministry.

Yet Tsutomu Sato, who chairs the council, said afterward that the policy was approved without objection.

The party’s Policy Research Council met earlier that day. One attendee questioned the phrase “steadily furthering spending reform,” contending that “there is no need to mention that in our current situation.” Fiscal considerations should be put on the back burner in light of the pandemic-induced economic slump, the thinking went.

The only objection came from Norio Mitsuya, acting chair of the council, who asserted that the government “must continue to show support for fiscal consolidation.”

Even an LDP subcommittee on medium- to long-term fiscal reconstruction has raised no objections to the fiscal 2021 draft budget.

During the LDP leadership race in September, candidates Fumio Kishida and Shigeru Ishiba — both of whom previously took hawkish stances on fiscal issues — were lukewarm in their comments on such policy. Kishida said the consumption tax could be raised “if it is needed to reform our social insurance system,” while Ishida said only that fiscal health should not be forgotten.

Spending reforms are a lower priority than keeping Japan’s economy from collapsing while coronavirus cases surge again. The LDP is also leery of policies that could antagonize industry groups ahead of the next general election, which will take place by October 2021. Suga’s sinking approval rating is likely to push the government toward freer spending as well.

Fiscal discipline was once a major point of contention within the LDP. In 1979, then-Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira’s cabinet approved preparations to introduce a general consumption tax, but the idea was dropped as opposition within the party mounted. Similarly, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s proposal in 1987 for a sales tax failed to pass.

An increase in the consumption tax rate to 5% in 1997, on top of a financial crisis, forced Ryutaro Hashimoto to resign as prime minister just over a year after the hike took effect. In the 2000s, a clash between the growth-focused “Rising Tide” faction and fiscal hawks split the LDP in two.

But no meaningful opposition stands against Suga’s stimulus agenda, just as most of the party united behind him in the September leadership race. The main faction supporting Suga favors fiscal stimulus, while previous Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came from the LDP’s largest faction, is reluctant to raise the consumption tax again.

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Nav Canada to lay off another 180 workers including at historic Gander Area Control Centre

Nav Canada plans to lay off 180 people across the country, employees were told on Wednesday, as the pandemic and travel restrictions continue to cripple the airline industry.

This latest round of cuts includes air traffic controllers who co-ordinate the movement of planes in between airports to make sure they are properly separated in the air. 

One of the area control centres affected is one of the main employers in Gander, N.L., where generations of families worked together and played a role in history.

Documentaries have been made about how the town’s air traffic controllers helped safely land more than 200 diverted aircraft safely on 9/11. There’s even a musical, Come From Away, about how more than 6,000 stranded passengers were welcomed into the small Newfoundland town.

Some of the air traffic controllers there handle aircraft over the northwestern portion of the Atlantic Ocean — the first radar surveillance site that planes hit coming from Europe. It’s also where aircraft from the Eastern Seaboard converge with traffic from central Canada and the U.S. Midwest. 

Along with those in Gander, the union representing the air traffic controllers told its members layoff notices were also served to 49 controllers in Moncton, Montreal and Edmonton. Nav Canada also sent notices on Monday to employees at the St. Jean Tower in Quebec and Vancouver’s area control centre.

Nav Canada told staff that 180 jobs are expected to be cut in an effort to save money while air traffic remains dramatically low due to the pandemic and travel restrictions. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Safety concerns

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association told its members it has safety concerns. 

“Every one of us understands that safety is being impacted, and, as stakeholders in this system, we cannot stand by and allow the Executives and Nav Canada Board to dismantle it,” the union’s executive board wrote in a memo obtained by CBC News. 

Nav Canada, a not-for-profit company which owns and operates the civil air navigation system, said the move is part of “critical” restructuring efforts and safety will not be impacted. 

“Today’s decisions are only made after careful consideration of our core mandates of safety and service and will not have any operational impact on the safe delivery of air navigation services across Canada,” it said in a news release.

A number of operational staff and technicians were also included in the layoffs, according to Nav Canada. 

Steep drop in traffic

Nav Canada manages millions of square kilometres of airspace over Canada and used to provide air navigation services for more than three million flights a year. It’s funded through service fees paid by air carriers.

COVID-19 has dramatically decreased the number of flights across the country since March. In September, there was a 63 per cent drop in air traffic compared to the same month in 2019, according to Nav Canada.

Since the beginning of COVID-19, the company has eliminated roughly 900 jobs making up almost 18 per cent of its workforce, according to the company’s news release. As previously reported, Nav Canada is also studying cutting air traffic controller jobs at seven towers across Canada in an effort to save money, a move some aviation experts and airlines warn would degrade safety in some regions. 

The layoffs announced this week take effect in six months. The union said it will keep lobbying the government .

Last month, Nav Canada’s vice president and chief of operations told employees in a confidential memo he’d been pushing the federal government for help, but — unlike some countries — Canada has not released an industry-specific bailout package yet. The government’s recent economic statement did not include additional aid for Nav Canada. 

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Police lay manslaughter charges against mother and acquaintance after child dies in Townsville

Police have arrested and charged two people in relation to the death of a three-year-old girl in Townsville on Friday.

Authorities said early investigations suggest the girl died from heat exposure in a motor vehicle.

The child’s 37-year-old mother and a 30-year-old male acquaintance have been charged with manslaughter.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Miles said the child was left in the car for a considerable period of time.

“We believe the vehicle was left at an address in Burdell early this (Friday) morning,” he said.

“We were advised by the Townsville University Hospital at 2:45pm in relation to what had occurred.”

Detective Miles said there will be a lengthy investigation into the timeline of events leading up to the child’s death.

“The next part of our investigation will be to further identify the movements of all the parties involved and identify … their exact activities,” he said.

“Suffice to say we have been given a fair bit of information up until this point which has been able to assist us with our inquiries going forward.

“We will be looking at the facets in relation to the care of this child, not only today but leading up to these events — which are an unfortunately very preventable and unfortunate tragedy.”

The pair who have been charged are expected to appear in the Townsville Magistrates Court on Saturday.

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VR could lay off upto 3,000 employees next year

Government-owned Finnish railway company VR Group is set to begin cooperation negotiations (commonly known as yt-neuvottelut in Finnish) next week. The negotiations will determine the extent to which VR will cut back on its workforce next year. 

The lay-offs could potentially affect approximately 3,000 people working for the company, as well as its Fleetcare division and the subsidiary Avecra. Fleetcare employees service and maintain the rail fleet, while Avecra handles catering. Around 950 Fleetcare and 400 Avecra employees could be let go next year. 

In a recently released statement, VR declared that it has encountered a significant decrease in customer demand due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. According to current estimates, it could take years for the company to fully recover and return to pre-pandemic levels.

The group already began laying off employees earlier this year. The cooperation negotiations for the new round of cutbacks will start on Thursday. Depending on the employee group, the lay-offs could either last for upto 90 days or continue indefinitely. 


Tahira Sequeira

Helsinki Times

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Marimekko to lay off 20 after wrapping up statutory talks with staff

MARIMEKKO is cutting a minimum of 20 jobs in Finland.

The Finnish fashion icon announced yesterday it has wrapped up its statutory consultative negotiations with its staff in the country, as well as the corresponding processes in Australia, North America and Scandinavia. The negotiations, it said, made it clear that the re-organisation is achievable with moderate job cuts while creating annual cost savings of about 1.3 million euros.

The company said its re-structuring and streamlining effort will affect up to 52 jobs in Finland, with at least 20 employees set to be laid off and up to 32 offered new or modified positions in the organisation. Elsewhere, the effort is set to lead to the re-structuring of “some jobs”.

The effort was originally initiated to generate annual cost savings of 1.5 million euros by re-aligning business operations with the structural changes accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, such as the shift of consumers toward online channels. Revamping the organisational structure, competencies and working methods is necessary also to consolidate the company’s future competitiveness and financial position, reminded Tiina Alahuhta-Kasko, the CEO of Marimekko.

“I am deeply sorry that these necessary changes also mean personnel reductions,” she stated in a press release.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our industry is facing the worst crisis in decades. Although megatrends such as digitalisation have been transforming consumer behaviour and fashion industry for years already, the pandemic has significantly intensified these dynamics.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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ESPN Preparing to Lay Off Hundreds

After years of losing subscribers, ESPN owner Disney is once again looking to lay off hundreds of employees at the cable sports network.

By some reports, Disney could pink slip up to 700 ESPN employees as the entertainment giant works to bring the sports network’s costs down more in line with its dwindling reach.

According to FrontOfficeSports, the layoffs will affect those employees behind the cameras most, but on-air and radio talent may also be targeted.

While most of the big-name talent appears to be safe from these layoffs, insiders say that some will be required to take a pay cut. Pay cuts may also hit some of ESPN’s executives and managers. Talent whose contracts are up soon will also not be renewed, the reports say.

Disney is hoping to cut “tens of millions” out of the ESPN operating budget, and the layoffs are only the first step, insiders say.

If the expected budget cuts do occur, it will mark the third time in just five years that ESPN instituted sweeping layoffs and a steep budget-cutting campaign.

In 2015, ESPN cut 350 employees, and in 2017 the company shed another 100 employees. Also in 2017, the company cut its budget by $80 million.

ESPN is not alone in losing customers. In general, cable is experiencing steep declines in customers as Americans cancel their cable and opt for streaming services.

In July, for instance, Verizon reported a loss of 81,000 pay-TV subscribers for its FiOS service which is on top of a 25 percent decline in revenue for its media unit.

Only months before that, AT&T noted that it had lost 1.4 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at: facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.

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Six months into the pandemic, it’s time to assess the lay of the land

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been filled with many unexpected twists and turns for small-business owners across all industries. From the unprecedented Australian fire season to a global pandemic, there have been many hurdles for business owners to navigate. 

At times, these hurdles have felt insurmountable. And in times of crisis, it’s tempting to stick your head in the sand when it comes to your business’s health. But it’s time we all stepped back and took a long, hard look at the lay of the land.

Devise a “market map

A market map is a simple tool to assess the current lay of your business’s landscape. This lets you see what’s happening with your customers, what your top clients are doing, what your competitors are doing, how your cash is flowing, who the intermediaries are, who else is entering the market, and what/who are influencing your market. 

Having this one central document is a very powerful tool to tackle new opportunities or reacting to the market. In times of crisis, it’s easy to get distracted by small, insignificant details – and the market map helps keep your sights on the big picture and planning ahead. 

Farming is not the “cottage” industry that many assume, it is big business and no amount of planning can prepare some of these businesses for events such as natural disasters. I encourage my clients to approach planning differently. A five-year plan is great but is almost irrelevant in these cases and so we encourage our clients to look more short term, to a three-year plan. 

Strive for uniqueness, not perfection

No matter what industry you are in, it’s important that you’re competing to be the best and be unique. The simplest definition of this strategy is by Harvard Professor Michael Porter, who suggests deliberately using a mix of activities to deliver a unique position in the market. Tools such as Porter’s Five Forces Model are very easy to use, and allow you to understand your unique position in the market, which can often result in higher margins.

It is also important to remember this idea of “uniquity” when helping your clients. Whether you manage 10-20 customers per day or 1000 on constant rotation, no two customers or cases are the same. This has become clear to us during the pandemic, with agribusiness clients coming to SproutAg with a variety of different business issues. We have adapted in this sense, and are now proud to offer each of our clients something “unique” in return. Your customers will always remember the extra lengths you go to, to meet their unique needs. 

Plan your cashflow, and beyond

It is easy to get complacent about cashflow in your business, but it is important to constantly assess this area. How often does the business get paid? Who’s paying you? What is your end to end cash payment cycle? Who’s taking chunks in between? 

A cashflow analysis can provide huge insight into where you should be spending your time, and what areas you need to cut back on. It also gives great visibility for analysis into what’s changing in your business – critical information in a time of crisis. 

Adapting a shorter three-year plan for cashflow works well, as it is actionable. In farming, we are unable to predict how long a drought will be, how severe bushfires season will become or the reality of a pandemic hitting – but farmers can teach businesses something here. Farmers were hit hard this year, but so many have survived because of their ability to plan ahead. After all, it takes time for crops and livestock to grow, so when it comes to planning ahead, agriprofessionals really are the pros. 

Troy Constance, CEO, SproutAg

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Suncor Energy to lay off up to 2,000 people

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“Suncor shares have underperformed peers and crude oil prices in 2020 following the 55 per cent cut to its dividend and third quarter operating challenges in its oilsands business,” BMO Capital Markets analyst Randy Ollenberger said in an Oct. 1 research note.

Ollenberger said he believed the shares offer “under appreciated value” and could recover as the company’s refining business improves.

The company has integrated operations with refineries in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Colorado.

Refineries have been hit hard during the coronavirus outbreak as commuters have stayed home and air travel has been severely curtailed since March.

In addition, Suncor is one of the higher cost oilsands mining companies and the cuts announced Friday should help bring the company’s operating costs per barrel into line, said New York-based Eight Capital analyst Phil Skolnick.

“How permanent are those cuts? If oil were to come back to $55 or $50, and we’re out of the pandemic, then how much of those come back?” Skolnick said, adding that the market and investors are looking for permanent cost reductions.

He said it’s not clear yet how a 15 per cent staff reduction would drive down break-even operating costs.

The Suncor Energy Centre building in downtown Calgary. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

RBC Capital Market analysts expectSuncor to re-establish momentum onseveral fronts in the quarters ahead, and maintained its outperformrecommendation on the company stock with a one-year price target of $25 pershare.

“Suncor has no plans to leap into renewables on a grandscale,’ RBC analyst Greg Pardy said in a note, after hosting a virtual roadshow with Suncor CEO Little for European investors. “Rather, the company is likely to emerge as a niche player, targeting ESG (environmental, social and governance) investments, which generate at least mid-teen returns. These are likelyto include biofuels, hydrogen, C02sequestration, and select wind projects.”

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