[UPDATED] Wall Street Journal offers buyouts

wsjA Romenesko reader writes:

“I’m a reporter at the WSJ. Just got a call from deputy bureau chief offering a buyout – said the offer is going to all employees. No details on payout formula. Offer is good until June 20. This dovetails with Robert Thomson’s ‘cost cutting’ comment during investor day.”

Here’s what Thomson, CEO of News Corp.’s publishing unit, told analysts and investors on June 4:

We’re certainly not naive about the challenges facing some of our newspapers and the headwinds commercially and economically in some countries. …Costs are being confronted and cut, and the markets are being reoriented. That transformation will take longer than a couple of quarters.

UPDATE — Wall Street Journal’s spokesperson sent me this statement: “As ever, we are focused on maintaining the Journal’s high standard of excellence while also operating efficiently and profitably. We continue to ensure we have the right reporting and editing resources for the task. Buyouts have long been an option for staff.”

UPDATE 2 — Tim Martell of the Wall Street Journal’s newsroom union (IAPE TNG/CWA Local 1096) emails: “I have just, and I do mean *just,* confirmed with DJ that there is no across the board buyout offer to WSJ or Newswires employees. I do know that managers have circled back to employees who have previously expressed some interest in a buyout, but that’s really not much different than we have seen as fiscal years past have neared an end. …No idea yet how many [buyouts were offered] — or how many have said ‘yes.'”

UPDATE 3 — Here’s the union’s memo to members:

From: “Your Union: IAPE 1096”

Every year, as the fiscal year draws to a close, the Company takes a close look at department budgets. Sometimes decisions are made to eliminate positions — all too often, IAPE-represented jobs — via the layoff process. Other times, management decides to reach out to certain employees and offer them a chance to leave with severance pay (and other post-termination benefits) without going through that layoff process.

Most often, the employees approached ore ones who have expressed some sort of interest in the past in accepting a buyout. Perhaps not surprisingly, these employees are often those with more years of service and higher rates of pay than their peers.

But these are always separation offers, generally referred to by IAPE and Dow Jones as “voluntary separation agreements.”

That is what is going on now in a number of Dow Jones locations: IAPE has confirmed with the Company that “there have been conversations” and that a relatively small number of separation offers have been issued — primarily on the newsroom-side of the business.

If your manager has contacted you with an offer to leave, please know that IAPE reps are available to assist you with any questions you might have — especially if you need someone to review your separation agreement. Please also know that we generally expect severance pay to match (or exceed) what the Company would be required to pay in the event of a layoff. Our severance package chart is posted on the IAPE website at http://www.iape1096.org/info/FAQ/severance.php.

We would also expect other post-termination benefits — medical coverage, retraining allowances and outplacement assistance — to be present in any separation offer. See http://www.iape1096.org/info/FAQ/severance2.php for those details.

If you have NOT been offered a buyout, but think you might be interested in one, we can ask management if a separation agreement for you might be possible — or you can have that discussion with your manager on your own.

We do not know whether Dow Jones also has any plans to cut positions via layoff. Sadly, we always expect a few jobs to be eliminated toward the ends of fiscal and calendar years, and so far this year, 33 IAPE-represented positions have been cut as a result of mandatory layoffs. The Company is always required to provide the Union with at least 30 days’ notice in advance of the effective date of any layoff.

We realize that constant rumors of layoffs and cost-cutting can be unsettling — that is why we are reaching out today with this news, in hopes that a few facts will help you better understand what is going on at Dow Jones.

* Who’s up, who’s down in Rupert Murdoch’s new empire (hollywoodreporter.com)