The corporate parent of The Enquirer is offering a voluntary “early retirement” buyout proposal to rid the company of some older and more highly paid employees.
Robert J. Dickey, president of The Gannett Co.'s U.S. newspaper division, announced the buyout offer Thursday in a memorandum to employees.—-
Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. Although Dickey said 785 employees meet the criteria, the deal only is being offered to 665 employees “due to ongoing operational needs at the company.”
Eligible employees have 45 days to accept. At the close of the offer period, Gannett will review applications and make final decisions; some people who apply for the deal might be turned down.
Sources at The Enquirer say executives are looking to shed 26 employees at Cincinnati’s only remaining daily newspaper, most of which likely will come from the newsroom. If enough people don’t apply, layoffs are possible later.
Department heads and publishers aren’t eligible for the buyout, sources added.
The offer provides for salary continuation of two weeks’ pay for each complete year of service, capped at 52 weeks, along with ongoing health, dental and vision insurance coverage during this period.
“The Early Retirement Opportunity Program is one part of our ongoing strategy to transform the company with a focus on remaining the top news and information provider in your market,” Dickey wrote in the memo. “To accomplish this, it entails a ground-up assessment of our overall structure and resources. At this time we are offering this program instead of pursuing other cost management actions but we cannot rule out other actions in the future.”
More than 1,200 employees were laid off at Gannett's newspaper holdings nationwide in 2009, including 101 people at The Enquirer. About 20 other Enquirer employees were laid off last year, although the newspaper didn't disclose exact numbers.
Also, Enquirer employees have been required to take several rounds of unpaid leave during the past three years.
Like most newspapers, Gannett's circulation and profits have dropped as readers migrate to free content on the internet, and the loss has lead to declining advertising revenues.
Based in Virginia, Gannett is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher as measured by total daily circulation. Its 82 daily newspapers, including USA Today, reach 11.6 million readers on weekdays and 12 million readers on Sundays. Also, the firm owns 23 television stations in the United States.