I had always held out hope that business would bounce back quickly enough that we would be able to avoid further staff reductions this fiscal year. Unfortunately whatever rebound there is in this economy hasn't reached the advertising market yet. We project revenues will continue their skid well into next year, which means expenses will need to come down accordingly.
Today we're announcing that we will be eliminating 18 full-time positions in the newsroom (managers and rank and file employees) by mid summer. We will notify the union today as well. Employees let go will receive a week's salary for each year worked, with a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 12. The company will also pay the employer portion of Cobra benefits for health care for three months.
It goes without saying that this deep a cut on top of previous reductions will have a lasting impact on our newspapers and Web sites. Our preference would be to hold staffing at its current level until the revenue bottomed out, but we can't delay if we're to get through this downturn.
Before we finalize these cuts, however, we're asking for volunteers to step forward. These volunteers will receive an additional severance of up to eight weeks salary on top of the severance mentioned above - one week's pay for each year worked, up to eight years. Under the volunteer program, a 12-year employee would receive the maximum 20-week severance.
Management reserves the right to accept or reject a voluntary offer, depending on how vital a position is to the news organization. Every accepted offer brings down the involuntary layoff number by one. If we accept 18 volunteers, we'll eliminate the need for the layoff altogether. Anyone interested in the voluntary program should contact Belinda Byrd in HR by Wednesday, July 8 at 5 p.m.
Any questions, feel free to drop me a line.
- The Guild has been trying to answer the many questions regarding the upcoming editorial work reduction. Executive Editor Kevin Keane sent out answers to many of them yesterday afternoon. Key dates were the July 8 deadline to notify the company if you volunteer. Those employees will know if they are accepted on July 13, and their last day will generally be July 15.
There are also additional questions we have asked the company. We asked how many guild positions are among these 18. The company was checking, but an early answer was that it will probably depend on how many volunteers are. If you volunteer, you will qualify for unemployment insurance. The company said it will not challenge claims, as it has done in the past.
Right now the guild does not have any meetings scheduled with the company, but they say they will meet with us should there not be enough volunteers and make involuntary layoffs necessary. Our contract also has many provisions covering that possibility, such as a two-week notification, severance, and being placed on a rehire list for six months if jobs become available.