Inquirer and Daily News Layoffs Begin [UPDATED]

It was one month ago today that we broke the news of impending layoffs at the Inquirer, Daily News, and The “voluntary separation” aka buyout period ended yesterday, and late in the afternoon, supervisors began notifying those employees who would be joining the “involuntary separation” aka layoff group. Reportedly, 21 staffers took the buyout, some “under duress.” Based on the original number of 37 total positions set for elimination, that would leave 16 layoffs, but there’s chatter that the number will be higher than that. One involuntarily separated full-time staffer told me that she’s expecting to get her official walking papers today. She also indicated that most if not all part-timers have been cut.

UPDATE 3/15/2012 11:20 a.m.: Moments ago, the Newspaper Guild–the union that represents the targeted employees–posted the following memo, making it clear that there’s still plenty of fight left in them:

March 15, 2012

Newpaper Guild will challenge the lay-offs announced today by Philadelphia Media network.
Dear Guild member,

This morning the Guild received notice from Philadelphia Media Network that it plans to lay off 19 members on March 31.

Those targeted for layoff are: Two full-time Inquirer reporters, three part-time Inquirer reporters, four part-time Inquirer copy editors, one part-time Inquirer artist, one full-time Daily News reporter, one part-time Daily News reporter, three part-time Daily News copy editors, one part-time Daily News desk assistant, one Daily News part-time editorial clerk. and two part-time multi-media content producers.

These layoffs come after 21 members applied for and were approved for voluntary separation. While many of the volunteers wanted to leave, others made the difficult decision to apply because they knew how vulnerable they would be in a layoff.

As per Article 28.1 of the Guild contract, layoffs are only to be made in the event of “good and reasonable cause,” and the Guild and company are to discuss the need for the layoffs. Over the next 15 days we will engage the company about why the layoffs are unnecessary. If they are still implemented we will challenge the layoffs through the contract’s grievance and arbitration procedure.

It is our position that between the significant savings of the salaries of the members who volunteered to leave, and the concessionary contract in 2010 that gave the new owners $6 million in cost cuts from our union, that enough is enough.

According to a recent Inquirer story, Philadelphia Media Network made a $4 million profit last year.

For the Inquirer, Daily News and to remain a viable operation in the 24/7 digital media landscape we believe that more employees, not less are required. Unfortunately CEO Greg Osberg, in efforts to make the books look more attractive to whatever investment group he has wrangled to buy the company, so long as they keep him on, believes that the region can be served with less journalists.

Perhaps instead of killing stories he didn’t like about the sale of the company and trying to be seen as some sort of digital visionary by holding press conferences at the Academy of Natural Sciences, giving free rent to start-up companies who play ping pong on the 5th floor at 400 N. Broad, creating a poorly-launched tablet and worrying about apps that make a few dollars, Osberg should be focused on properly staffing the newspapers in a manner that will allow more copies to be sold. The duplication of stories in both papers and the ongoing push to dump more and more content onto will not solve any revenue problems.

Whether Osberg wants to admit it or not, the print editions of the Inquirer and Daily News, which he offensively labels “legacy products,” are responsible for generating more than 90 percent of the revenue. Osberg speaks of something called “Project Liberty,” though nobody seems clear on exactly what that is. We believe our journalists should be given the liberty to continue working to serve the community that depends on us.

In solidarity,

Dan Gross, President,
Bill Ross, Executive Director,
and the Executive Board of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America Local 38010