Several Lee papers announced today that employees would be required to take unpaid time off. Editor & Publisher reports this is not a company-wide initiative, but Lee HQ was dodging phone calls and questions.
Here's the list so far:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Non-union employees -- about 300 people -- must take off 1 week by March 31.
Rapid City Journal: As previously posted, four employees were laid off and employees must take time off by April.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier: All employees must take off 1 week by April 1.
Longview Daily News: Employees were asked to volunteer for furloughs. If not enough people sign up, they'll consider making them mandatory. (See the memo below.)
I fear there are others. Let us know if furloughs have been announced at your paper.
From: Linda Lindus
Sent: Friday, January 30, 2009 9:14 AM
Subject: Voluntary Furloughs and Cost Reductions
As each of you know we are in a difficult economy that has changed the way we do business. We read about it daily and many of you have friends and family who have had their livelihoods affected. The media landscape is changing and while we reach more consumers today than we did five years ago (and more than any other media) advertising revenue is weak because many businesses have cutback because of the economy. We have trimmed, or cut our expenses here and there, re-contracting with our vendors and reducing costs in nearly every category from copiers to utilities. We remain a strong viable company. And we will remain strong because of our importance to society and democracy: we are the watchdog and the sole source of news for our local market.
In the past couple of days TDNers have made some creative suggestions to help us further reduce our expenses in an effort to avoid additional job losses. One suggestion that I will address is the “Voluntary Furlough” in lieu of across the board mandatory furlough. Many newspaper companies have announced mandatory furloughs where employees are being required to take a week or more off without pay. In a “Voluntary Furlough” an employee volunteers to take the time off without pay. It is a good suggestion that we would like to embrace where it is possible.
“Voluntary Furloughs” among those who wish unpaid time off, or a temporary reduction in work hours, may be made to your individual department heads. It does not change your benefit level, or job status. The unpaid time would need to be time off taken between Feb. 3 and the end of April 2009. If you wish to participate, we would like you to make your requests by Monday, Feb. 2.
Once we have all of the voluntary requests in place, we will see if there is a need for a temporary reduction in work hours or mandatory furloughs. From talking to many of you in the past couple days, we recognize how important it is to minimize the impact on individual finances.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to ask me, your department head or Kim Cheatley. We will work together to get through this tough time so we can be stronger on the other side. I appreciate the hard work that each of your contribute. We produce a wonderful newspaper, great ancillary products, and have created a healthy, rapidly-growing website. Thank you for all that you do and your support of TDN and Lee.