Sunday, September 28, 2008

Post-Dispatch lays off 20 more; contract negotiation ends

Things are getting rough(er) at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper laid off 20 people on Friday; 17 were from the newsroom.

Romenesko posted a memo from top editors:

It's been a difficult day. We eliminated 17 positions Friday.

We are reducing the size of our Washington Bureau to one immediately after the November election. Bill Lambrecht remains our bureau chief. Phil Dine and Deirdre Shesgreen have been offered transfers to St. Louis.

We are eliminating the positions of all of our news clerks in the D Classification (Robert Douglas, Bryant Ingram, John Mertzlufft, Coddy Murray, Keith Schildroth, Cyndi Waters, Pam Williams).

We are eliminating the positions of three news clerks in the C classification.

We are eliminating the position of our Jefferson City assistant (Linda Sommers).

We are eliminating the position of two reporters, one copy editor and one designer.

Under the Guild contract, staff members with more seniority in the classifications affected can volunteer to retire or resign and, in effect, take the place of those whose positions were eliminated. That's why we did not disclose some names. Please contact Gwen Jacobson or Bruce Benson in HR by Friday, Oct. 10 If you are interested in volunteering to leave.

We also are eliminating the positions of two assistant metro/business editors (Ed Kohn and Rod Hicks)

It's been a difficult year for our industry and the Post-Dispatch, and a very difficult economy. We are sorry to have to give you this news. It's not the kind of note we are fond of writing. Please take care of each other.

Arnie and Pam

A memo from publisher Kevin Mowbray said, well, nothing:
St. Louis, MO. (September 26, 2008)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Kevin Mowbray

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today announced a work force reduction of 20 positions. The areas affected are production, marketing, and newsroom.

"These are unprecedented times that require us to reduce costs caused as a result of the national economic slump," said St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Kevin Mowbray. "However, even with these reductions, we will give our customers the best print and online news products in the St. Louis metropolitan area."

Just last month, they laid off 18 people and outsourced most of those jobs to India. Now advertisers are boycotting the paper because of the outsourced jobs.

But there's more. As previously mentioned, the St. Louis Newspaper Guild and the Post-Dispatch had moved to expedited bargaining on a new contract. That fell apart Thursday:
The beginning of the end came early during talks when the company first raised the possibility of layoffs in an attempt to scare the Guild into accepting a bad deal.

The company, on an almost daily basis, then incrementally raised the layoff threat level from “layoffs are in the fiscal ’09 budget,” to “layoffs will happen Friday (9/26) if we don’t get a deal,” to “layoffs are going to happen anyway” regardless of a deal.

The union met Saturday -- anyone have an update?

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