Daily News and Inquirer Staffers Offered Buyouts
Less than a week after learning that several Inquirer reporters of a certain age had been reassigned to other geographic areas, with full-time theater critic Howard Shapiro heading over the bridge to cover South Jersey (not South Jersey theater — just South Jersey), now we’ve learned that staffers in both newsrooms have been offered participation in the “Voluntary Separation Program” aka buyouts, which were most recently offered to employees in February under previous ownership.
“The company occasionally offers buyout programs,” says Daily News‘ Dan Gross, an official with the Newspaper Guild, the union representing employees. “We will work with any members who may be interested in leaving to maximize their compensation and benefits.” When asked whether he expects layoffs in the future, Gross said, “There has been no discussion of layoffs.”
Longtime Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky sees the buyouts as a “humane” option to cost-cutting, “as long as it is truly voluntary and as long as there is a going away present.” And there is a going away present, with a $5,000 “separation payment” for one to five years of service, $15,000 for six to 14, and $25,000 for the 15-plussers. Bykofsky promises that he’s not going anywhere.
Here is a copy of the email sent to Daily News staff earlier today. Note that the separation payments were detailed separately.
To Daily News Staff:
With the role of reporters, editors, photographers and news production evolving to produce and deliver content to our readers when and where they want it, requests for a Voluntary Separation Program have been made. As a result, the attached Voluntary Separation Program is being offered to eligible Guild newsroom employees.
If you want to be considered for the Voluntary Separation Program you need to complete the attached application form and submit the application to me by 5PM, Friday, October 19, 2012. By completing the application form, you are requesting to be considered for a voluntary layoff and are agreeing to leave your position. Once your application is accepted, you will receive an email from me telling you that the company is approving your request. You cannot rescind your application once it has been approved by the Company. Your termination date will be October 26, 2012 whether you sign a Voluntary Separation Agreement and General Release (“Agreement”) or not.
After your application is approved, you will meet with me and Guild Executive Director, Bill Ross and receive an Agreement that will contain the description of payments and other benefits you will receive for participating in the Voluntary Separation Program. In addition to receiving a severance payment from the Company per Article 23.4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, any Guild severance benefit paid an annuity payment through the Guild Pension Plan (Article 23.1) that you may be entitled to and any unused 2012 vacation and personal days, you will only receive the separation payment and additional COBRA payment if you sign the Agreement. You will have 45 days to consider signing the Agreement. It is a legal document that outlines the mutual promises and commitments made relating to your separation from the Company. Your termination date remains October 26, 2012. The 45 days is to consider signing the Agreement NOT 45 days to decide if you want to voluntarily leave the Company.
Once you sign the Agreement, you then have 7 days after you sign it to revoke it. If you revoke the Agreement, you will not receive the separation and COBRA payments from the Company described in the program. Your termination date remains October 26, 2012.
After your application has been accepted by the Company, if you decide not to sign the Agreement your termination date remains October 26, 2012 and you will only receive the severance payment from the Company per Article 23.4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and any Guild severance benefit that is now an annuity payment through the Guild Pension Plan (Article 23.1) that you may be entitled to. You will also receive any unused 2012 vacation and personal days. You will not receive the separation and COBRA payments from the Company.
Unemployment. Because your termination would be considered a job elimination, you would be eligible to apply for unemployment compensation. Applicable state authorities make ultimate determinations on unemployment claims.
Please feel free to call me or Bill Ross at the Guild office with any questions or concerns.
Chris M. Bonanducci
Senior Human Resources Director
Philadelphia Media Network, Inc.