As its parent company deals with tumbling profits, The Cincinnati Enquirer announced today that it's offering a voluntary severance program to its employees. If enough workers don't accept the buyout proposal, layoffs could occur later, its publisher said.
Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sent an e-mail today to all of the newspaper's employees, informing them of the severance program. Under the deal, the company will offer two weeks of severance pay for every year of credited service, up to 52 weeks. The severance would be paid in the same manner as regular payroll — not in a lump sum — until the severance period expires. During the severance period, healthcare benefits would remain intact.
The company is seeking 50 volunteers to accept the severance package, the e-mail states. If more than 50 employees volunteer, “we will review whether we can expand the pool,” Buchanan wrote.
She also cautioned, “If this voluntary offer doesn’t result in a sufficient number of volunteers, or if in the future (sic), economic conditions worsen, it may be necessary to consider layoffs.”
All non-unionized employees are eligible, which essentially means all workers except those in the printing facility.
Employees have two business weeks, until Aug. 15, to make a decision.
This blog first mentioned persistent rumors about layoffs at The Enquirer in June when we wrote about how its parent firm, The Gannett Co., was freezing its pension plan benefit.
In today’s e-mail, Buchanan wrote, “In the last few years, we have implemented a number of new initiatives to help us compete in an ever-changing media landscape, and thanks to your hard work and initiative, we are poised to succeed in the future.
“However, as I’m sure you’re aware, the economy has worsened in the last year,” Buchanan continues. “Despite putting into place many cost-control actions — including some reductions in staff and many non-payroll expense cuts — we find ourselves needing to cut expenses again.”
As with most U.S. newspaper chains, Gannett’s financial performance lately has been awful.
McLean, Va.-based Gannett reported a 36 percent decline in profits for the second quarter of this year, while its stock price has dropped significantly. The company’s total revenue declined more than 10 percent, to $1.72 billion
Gannett is the largest newspaper publisher in the nation. It owns 85 U.S. daily newspapers including The Enquirer and USA Today, along with about 1,000 non-daily publications and 23 TV stations.
The company has fared poorly in recent years. Gannett’s stock price is down 59 percent from a year ago, and Morningstar Inc., an investment research firm, predicts the firm’s annual sales will decline by an average of 4 percent annually during the next five years.
As this blog mentioned in June, Gannett Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow earned a total compensation package of about $7.9 million last year.
It remains unclear whether Dubow, Buchanan or other top managers have offered to return some of their pay to help cut costs.
— Kevin Osborne