April 9, 2020

Tribune Publishing today announced a series of permanent pay cuts for non-union staffers that will range from 2% to 10% off their current salaries.

The cuts take effect April 19.

An email memo from Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jimenez said that the company “will permanently reduce base pay from 2% to 10% for employees who have an annual base salary of $67,000 or more. These reductions will be on a sliding scale, with those earning more taking a steeper cut.”

Executives also will take a cut. Jimenez wrote, “I will be foregoing my salary for two weeks in addition to a 10% reduction in my base salary, totaling a 13.8% pay reduction.” He said Tribune’s board of directors will also take a 13.8% pay reduction in their fees.

Jiminez also said that he and the management team will see further reductions in total compensation elements that are tied to the company’s financial performance.

And buyouts are on the table, the memo says.

“Consistent with the company’s severance policy, employees will, alternatively, have the option to apply to leave the company and receive severance in lieu of the annual base salary reduction.” Employees must pick an option by April 17, and those who choose buyouts will have their last day on April 24.

Tribune holdings include the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and The Virginian-Pilot, among other properties. According to Tribune’s website, the company employs nearly 5,000 people in the United States.

The memo also says that employees represented by unions will be subject to cuts to be determined.

Here is the memo in its entirety:

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.  These are uniquely challenging times for our own health and well-being as well as for the global economy and the businesses in our communities.  Through these tough circumstances, we continue to create meaningful journalism and foster relationships between our advertising partners and our readers.

Despite strong readership and engagement to the work we are doing, the current business climate poses challenges for everyone.  Along with most of our industry peers, we are experiencing a negative business impact as a result of the pandemic.  This is particularly true in our print advertising business, where most of the local businesses that we normally partner with are effectively shut down.  In the wake of these revenue declines, we must take drastic actions to better position ourselves for the future.  To offset these sharp declines, we must reduce costs.

To that end, I have asked the executive team to review all business goals and processes in order to protect the future well-being of the company.  As a result of these analyses and in an effort to manage company assets conservatively during this economically challenging time, the executive team has come to a difficult, but necessary conclusion.

Effective April 19, we will permanently reduce base pay from 2% to 10% for employees who have an annual base salary of $67,000 or more. These reductions will be on a sliding scale, with those earning more taking a steeper cut.  Consistent with the company’s severance policy, employees will, alternatively, have the option to apply to leave the company and receive severance in lieu of the annual base salary reduction.  The severance calculation is outlined in the Employee Handbook.  Employees will have until Friday, April 17 to decide if they want to receive the salary reduction or apply to leave the company and receive severance.  For employees who choose to leave the company, their last day with Tribune will be Friday, April 24.  Employees who are impacted by the pay reduction will receive a notification later this afternoon.

These measures apply to all non-unionized employees.  We also will pursue cost savings within our unionized workforce with measures that will affect both employees covered by existing collective bargaining agreements and employees who are not.

This was an extremely tough decision, and we understand and appreciate the impact this could have on you and your family.  Many of our print and digital peers have taken even more drastic measures.  Please know that we have taken a number of other actions to reduce our expenses with outside vendors, occupancy expenses and a targeted number of employee reductions.  We made this decision to have the least impact on our employees overall and it will permit us to continue carrying out our mission during this critical time.  We continue to assess the economic environment and will consider other measures to help us address the shortfall in advertising revenue.

We also want to inform you of the actions we are taking to reduce costs at the executive level.  I will be foregoing my salary for two weeks in addition to a 10% reduction in my base salary, totaling a 13.8% pay reduction. The company’s Board of Directors will also take a 13.8% pay reduction in their fees.  Furthermore, the management team and I are receiving reductions in total compensation in some cases of more than 50% as a result of compensation elements tied to the company’s financial performance that will likely not be paid because of the pandemic’s impact on our business.

Your work has contributed to your communities and helped readers understand what is going on in the world around them, and I thank you, humbly, for your continued dedication as we navigate through this storm.

Very best,
Terry Jimenez
Chief Executive Officer
Tribune Publishing

Barbara Allen is the director of college programming at Poynter. She can be reached at ballen@poynter.org or on Twitter, @barbara_allen_

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Poynter.org. She spent two decades in…
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