Apple Daily said in a statement issued on May 14 that it would cease publication in print on May 18, citing “long terms profit losses” as the main reason while pledging to focus on its digital content. Next Digital maintains that the decision will “have a positive effect on the overall financial performance” of the group in the long run. It also noted that Chang Yue-shing, director of the Taiwan edition of Apple Daily, had resigned.
According to Apple Daily’s Union (ADU), 326 out of 801 workers at the newspaper were asked to leave, including news staff and others working for the print edition of Apple Daily. On May 15, ADU said it “strongly condemns” the company for using the termination of the print edition as an excuse to fire a large portion of its senior workers, including the union's secretary general, Chen Chia-en.
The union told the IFJ on May 17 that it was notified by the company almost immediately before the news was made public, and that the company has not yet launched negotiations with the union to discuss the mass lay-offs. According to Taiwanese law, a company should report planned mass redundancies to labour authorities – dismissal of over 80 employees in one day for a company the size of Apple Daily – and negotiate with its trade union to ensure the rights of employees.
The news came hours before the Hong Kong authorities said they had frozen Next Digital shares held by its founder Jimmy Lai on national security grounds. On May 17, the trading of Next Digital was halted pending a further government notice.
On May 17, the ATJ and Taiwan Media Workers Union said in a joint statement that firing Chen could be seen as retaliation against someone who has worked to defend the rights of media workers and disrupt subsequent negotiations between the company and the trade union.
The ATJ said: “The Apple Daily management should provide two-month pay in lieu of notice and other severance packages according to law. The ATJ will also closely monitor the pending negotiations between the two parties.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ expresses deep regret over this monumental decision made by Next Digital and calls on Apple Daily to negotiate with its trade union and employees to ensure decent treatment, fair severance packages and respect to their workers.”