3/13/08

News union in for dues hit at Washington Post

The Washington Post released terms of previously announced employee buyouts yesterday, and new publisher Katharine Weymouth said that if enough of the staff did not participate, layoffs were possible. The paper said last month it would offer buyouts, or "voluntary early retirement incentive programs," to Post employees to reduce costs. The plan released yesterday is for employees who aren't eligible to be members of the Newspaper Guild -- typically editors and other managers. A similar plan for guild-covered staff members, including reporters, has been promised soon.

The Post offered buyouts in 2003 and 2006. To qualify in the previous round, employees had to be at least 54 years old and have 10 years of service with the paper. This time, all that is required is to be 50 years old and have five years of Post service. Well more than 100 of The Post's approximately 785 newsroom employees will be eligible, management has said.

However, buyout offers will not be extended to everyone with the right age and service, Weymouth wrote in her e-mail to the staff today. "Although we would like to be able to offer the [buyouts] to all who might be interested, they are being offered only in areas where positions do not need to be replaced or where we can otherwise achieve cost savings," she wrote.

Those taking the buyout will receive enhancements to their Post pension and health insurance coverage, as well.

Faced with declining circulation and ad revenue, the newspaper industry has been in rapid contraction. The New York Times recently offered buyouts to cut 100 newsroom positions, saying if the number were not met, layoffs would be considered. The paper extended the deadline for accepting the offer because it has not gotten 100 takers.

"We have more readers now, and more far flung readers, than we have ever had," Weymouth wrote. "And on-line revenues are growing. But, as you know, they are not yet growing fast enough to offset the declines we are seeing in print revenues."

Last year, Post online revenue totaled $114 million, up 11 percent from 2006. Ad revenue from the print version of The Post was $496 million, down 13 percent from 2006.

Weymouth was appointed publisher of The Post and chief executive of Washington Post Media last month, taking over for Post Publisher Boisfeuillet Jones Jr.

(washingtonpost.com)

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