Seattle Times and Newsday offer buyouts

Seattle Times editor Kathy Best writes in her buyouts memo: “I don’t want to lose any of you and I know that doing so carries a price for our newsroom and for our readers. But we don’t have a choice if we want The Seattle Times to continue.”

Best sent this to her staff earlier this week:

As you know, 2016 is a tough budget year for The Seattle Times.

Thanks to your creativity, we were able to find tens of thousands of dollars in savings from expenses. But even after pulling all the change from all the seat cushions, we still need significant reductions in the newsroom budget.

That’s why we’re offering an opportunity for those of you already thinking of leaving the Times to do so with some extra cash in your pocket./CONTINUES

Attached are the details of an “Expression of Interest” in voluntarily departing. Those who apply will be eligible for one week of pay for each year of service up to 13 weeks. (The minimum is four weeks of pay, regardless of experience.)

Because this is considered a reduction in force, people who leave voluntarily also will be eligible for unemployment compensation, which currently is available for 26 weeks.

I don’t want to lose any of you and I know that doing so carries a price for our newsroom and for our readers. But we don’t have a choice if we want The Seattle Times to continue.

As the attachment outlines, you have until noon on Dec. 31 to submit your Expressions of Interest. We will review them and let you know whether they are accepted by Jan. 8. Some EOIs may be rejected if your position is mission critical.

It is possible, even with the voluntary departures, that we still may need layoffs to make our budget. But the EOIs will, I hope, minimize that need.

I know the timing for this is not ideal. But I hope that those of you considering leaving the Times will be able to use the holidays to talk over your decision with your families.

There will be meetings today in the Fishbowl at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to answer your questions. We will repeat those sessions tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. You are also free to talk with your department head, AME, or me, Jim or Mich at any time.

Kathy

An earlier version of this post said the memo was sent on Thursday. The paper’s spokeswoman tells me staffers received it on Monday.

Newsday union memo:

From: “406 Editorial”
Date: Dec 18, 2015 8:59 PM
Subject: Layoffs and buyouts

Dec. 18, 2015

Dear members,

We have some sad news. Newsday has decided to reduce staffing in three areas: three of five positions in the library, three of three in the Editorial Systems Group and two of four on the part-time support staff.

The titles affected are Library Database Administrator and Electronic Library Technician in the library, Technician in the Editorial Systems Group and Editorial Aide among the support staff. Management says the trims come as a result of technological changes: Hermes 11 has drastically reduced the workload of the techs in the library and ESG. And the support staff has for some time handled a lower volume of some of their core tasks, such as answering phones, relaying messages to and from staffers or tips from callers and other clerical tasks.

As per the contract’s language on staff reductions, the company is offering buyouts to the affected groups, and those employees will be thinking deeply about their futures over the next few weeks as the employees who accept the buyout or who end up being laid off (in the event not enough people apply for the buyout) must end their employment with Newsday by Feb. 15.

They will likely need the support and understanding of their co-workers during what is a difficult transition, so please be sensitive to their needs at what may be a time of great change and anxiety. Some of the affected employees have given Newsday decades of service, and while some may be ready to start new chapters, others may still feel tied to this place and the people who make it what it is.

The employees must decide whether they want to accept their buyout packages by Jan. 14. We hope everyone can support them at their time of need, particularly those who do not want to leave and must find new employment.

We are aware that rumors of a staff reduction have been circulating in the newsroom this week but felt obligated to hold off sending out a note until each of the employees had been properly notified. The official notice of the action has been posted in a number of places around the building, including the union’s bulletin board at the entrance to the newsroom.

It cannot be overstated that staff reductions are hard on a workforce as we are forced to say goodbye to treasured colleagues and friends who have helped us all grow as human beings and professionals while being a part of this organization over the course of its many milestones.

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