Tampa Bay Times cuts staff pay, hints at layoffs
The Tampa Bay Times will cut staff pay 5 percent, Times Publishing Company CEO Paul Tash tells staffers in a letter Thursday.
The company will also cap severance payments to employees who leave voluntarily at eight weeks' pay, unless they resign by Oct. 1, in which case the maximum severance is 13 weeks' pay. The letter hints at layoffs: "After these voluntary departures, we will take stock of the company's ongoing staff patterns and needs," Tash writes.
If you are uncertain about your standing with the Times, this is a good time for a frank conversation with your supervisor. If this long, difficult stretch has tested your commitment to the Times or the newspaper business, this is a good time to consider your options.
Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times.
The Times said in March it planned buyouts in advance of job reductions. The paper cut pay 5 percent in 2009, when it was known as the St. Petersburg Times. It also cut staff pay 5 percent in 2011 and laid off staff the next month. It ended the second 5 percent cut in March 2012.
The Times also announced Thursday it had sold the Tramor Cafeteria to a company that plans to make it into a beer garden. While it was no longer an active cafeteria, "Times employees have used it as a place to eat lunch brought from home and for meetings," Katherine Snow Smith reports.
"Staffers are welcome to use the break room on the 2nd floor, where other vending machines are located," a memo to staffers about the Tramor sale says.
The Times also recently gave up the naming rights to an arena in Tampa.
According to the Alliance for Audited Media, average Sunday circulation at the Tampa Bay Times in March 2014 was down 1 percent over the same month the year before, to 397,996. Average Monday-Friday circulation was down nearly 7 percent, to 317,270.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Newspaper publishing remains a tough business, especially this summer, and we are taking some tough measures to adapt our company's operations to the reality of tight revenue.
First, starting with the week of September 29, there will once again be a 5 percent wage reduction for all fulltime Times staffers. (This will show up in paychecks on Friday, October 10.) We regret the necessity and will endeavor to restore full pay when conditions permit, as we did before. While the pay reduction is in place, staffers will receive one extra day of paid leave per quarter.
Second, we are capping the maximum paid severance at eight weeks, rather than the current 13. This change anticipates that as we lower expenses, there will be further job reductions.
In light of these changes, we will offer severance -- under the current policy and based on their current pay -- to staffers who resign by October 1 and leave the staff by October 10. (Note: This offer does not extend to advertising sales representatives or sales managers, because we do not anticipate job reductions in those ranks.)
After these voluntary departures, we will take stock of the company's ongoing staff patterns and needs. If you are uncertain about your standing with the Times, this is a good time for a frank conversation with your supervisor. If this long, difficult stretch has tested your commitment to the Times or the newspaper business, this is a good time to consider your options.
It hurts my heart that for all the fine work we have done this year, and indeed over the last several years, there is more hard work ahead, including some disruption or hardship for people I care about. Against that disappointment, I draw encouragement from our extraordinary work and the great difference it makes every day in the lives of our readers, advertisers and communities.
Yes, this work is difficult, but it is also vital -- not just for the Times, but for Tampa Bay. So for me there is only one option: to see it through.