Tribune Publishing is requiring most non-union employees earning between $40,000 and $67,000 a year to take three weeks of furloughs in the next three months.
The action, announced in a letter to staff by CEO Terry Jimenez, comes just short of two weeks after he announced permanent pay cuts of 2 to 10% for higher salaried employees.
In both letters, Jimenez encourages staffers who would prefer to leave the company with severance to do so. Also, he says that similar pay cuts or furloughs for unionized staff will be determined in the near future.
Jimenez’s latest letter says furloughs may be extended for those affected or imposed on other workers, depending on whether business begins to improve in the second half of the year.
Besides the flagship Chicago Tribune, the company publishes The Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale and a half-dozen more titles.
The furloughs follow a pattern set by Gannett at the end of March and picked up by most chains since — preserving health benefits for those being furloughed and keeping staff who choose to stay for when the economy recovers.
The big chains and many independent papers have now responded with pay cuts and furloughs as paid print advertising has crashed with the coronavirus. An exception is Hearst, which said it would do neither and awarded a small bonus for the extra work needed to put out expanded local reports.
Alden Global Capital now owns roughly a third of Tribune’s stock and appears to be driving draconian cuts. Earlier this year, Jimenez replaced CEO Tim Knight. The editor/publisher and managing editor of the Chicago Tribune have also departed.
The text of Jimenez’s letter is below:
COVID-19 continues to have an unprecedented effect on our economy, our industry and our business. Despite strong engagement with our journalism, the impact on advertising has been profound. Statewide stay-at-home orders have been extended beyond initial government orders, and as a result, we will need to take additional measures to ensure the financial stability of the company.
We are, therefore, implementing broad furloughs for employees who are paid an annual base salary between $40,000 and $67,000. Most employees who are affected by the recently announced permanent pay reduction will not be subject to the furlough, but there may be exceptions based on business conditions. The temporary furlough will be for three weeks for most positions and will be taken in one week increments between May and July 2020. We may also implement additional furloughs or extend the length of time for positions that have been disproportionately impacted by the slowdown of work activity brought about by the pandemic. Your manager will inform you of the dates based on business needs. Please note that employees are not expected to perform any work on behalf of the company when they are on furlough. Employees who are impacted by the furlough will receive a notification in the coming days.
Employees will, alternatively, have the option to apply to leave the company and receive severance in lieu of the furlough. The severance calculation is outlined in the Employee Handbook. Employees will have until Friday, May 1, 2020 to decide if they want to accept the furlough or apply to leave the company and receive severance. For employees who choose to leave the company, their last day with the company will be Friday, May 8.
You may be eligible for unemployment benefits under these circumstances based on the state in which you reside. Please contact your local unemployment office for information on eligibility and applying for unemployment benefits. In addition, you may be eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. The personalized notification you will be receiving from the company can be sent to your local unemployment office as evidence of your employment status.
During the period that you are on furlough, your health and welfare benefits will continue. If you have any questions regarding benefits, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local HR partner.
These measures apply to all non-unionized employees. We also are actively pursuing cost savings within our unionized workforce with measures that will affect both employees covered by existing collective bargaining agreements and employees who are not.
We realize that this will have an impact on you and your family. Please take care of yourself and know that you can reach out to the Employee Assistance Program at (866) 695-6327, which Tribune Publishing offers at no cost to all employees. It is a confidential service for you and your family members.
We appreciate your efforts in navigating this pandemic for the betterment of our communities. Our journalists continue to cover this crisis and help our communities understand their new norms. Our sales teams maintain regular outreach to our advertisers to assist them in servicing their customers, and our press, packaging and distribution teams make sure these messages reach our readers. We will keep trying to find answers for our audiences and solutions for our customers throughout this crisis as a responsible partner in our communities.
Please take care and stay safe.
Rick Edmonds is Poynter’s media business analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com.