News Union takes a dues hit in Providence

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Industry beset by red ink, leftism, paper-stream waste

A.H. Belo Corp., of Dallas, announced yesterday that it will lay off employees at three of the media company’s properties, including The Providence Journal. The layoffs are to be completed by middle to late October, according to the company.

The announcement comes after A.H. Belo offered a voluntary buyout program. Twenty-two Providence Journal employees took buyouts, according to yesterday’s statement. At the Dallas Morning News, 270 people took buyouts and at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., 120 took buyouts, according to the company.

The number of layoffs at the Providence Journal was not provided, with the company noting they are “subject to contractual obligations.” The affected departments are news, editorial, advertising and promotion, according to the company. A letter A.H. Belo sent to employees said the layoffs would also affect about 50 positions at The Dallas Morning News and about 30 positions at The Press-Enterprise.

During the buyout process, the company had said it was looking for 35 Journal employees to accept the offer.

For the layoffs, called “involuntary reductions” in the company’s statement, the severance package will be 1.25 weeks of severance pay for each year of service through 20 years and 2.5 weeks of severance pay for each year of service above 20 years. The maximum will be 35 weeks.

A.H. Belo said the combined work force cuts company-wide are expected to result in $29 million in savings on a yearly basis.

When the job reductions were first announced in July, the company said the cutbacks are part of a broad restructuring plan because A.H. Belo faces an “unprecedentedly adverse business environment in the newspaper industry.” The company said it hoped to achieve the targeted job cuts through voluntary severance offers. If not enough workers agreed to the buyouts, however, the company said then it would have to resort to layoffs.

Robert Decherd, A.H. Belo chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement with yesterday’s announcement, “These job actions are part of a restructuring of our newspaper operations that accelerates the allocation of resources to promising new print and online products while focusing our workforce on A.H. Belo’s local content creation and sales capabilities. We greatly appreciate the dedication and service of all A.H. Belo employees who are leaving the company under the voluntary severance program. I’m confident that we’re taking the right steps to realign our resources to meet consumer and advertiser needs while maintaining the exceptional quality at A.H. Belo’s journalistic products.”

John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, the union representing most Journal employees, said, “It’s obviously something that is happening throughout the country, so The Journal isn’t any different in that respect. The business is going through a major transformation and papers all over the country, like The Journal, are trying to figure out how to survive and, we hope, thrive in an Internet-based environment."


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