Pay for staffers at St. Petersburg Times cut five percent for five months under new cost-saving plan
Pay for full-time employees at the St. Petersburg Times will be cut by five percent until January 2012 under a new cost-savings plan implemented by the newspaper starting Monday.
Staffers will be given five additional days off, with pay, during the five-month period, distinguishing this move from compulsory furloughs used by some other media outlets. The change will save about $1-million over the next five months in payroll costs.
The company also will reduce its maximum severance payment from 40 weeks to 26 weeks, starting Oct. 1. The newspaper’s cost-saving plan will also likely include further job reductions, though officials could not say how many jobs would be cut or when.
“I am fed up with this recession, like each of you, and I’m tired of having to bring tough news about its effect on the company and all of us,” wrote Paul Tash, CEO and Chairman of the St. Petersburg Times, in a letter to the staff. “But I am not discouraged, because every week I see big gains in our drive to become the newspaper – in print and electronically – for all of Tampa Bay."
The cutbacks come at a time when many newspaper companies are reducing costs in response to a sluggish economy and depressed advertising revenues.
Media General, owner of local rival The Tampa Tribune, laid off 29 employees at its Florida operations in June, including nine newsroom staffers. Employees there also have been required to take 15 unpaid days off as furlough time during the second half of 2011.
Last week, the Miami Herald announced 13 staffers would be laid off and 20 vacant positions would go unfilled, while the remaining employees would be required to take weeklong furloughs without pay between September and the end of the year.
In 2009, the St. Petersburg Times announced a 5 percent pay cut across the board for all employees, along with a phased-out end to benefits provided for retirees on the company's health care plan.
The text of Paul Tash’s letter to the staff follows:
The sputtering economy took a turn for the worse this summer, and the St. Pete Times is not immune. To cut expenses, we are temporarily reducing pay by 5 percent for all full-time staffers through January 2012, and providing five extra paid days off during the same five-month period.
Many newspapers have responded to the recession with furloughs, but we believe this is a better approach, both for staffers and the company. It will reduce payroll expense roughly $1-million over the next five months.
I regret the hardship this action will cause to staffers and their households, but it will give us time to judge the severity of this downturn, and to consider other options for reducing expenses on a permanent basis.
Those steps will likely include further job reductions. With that in mind, the company is changing its severance policy, from the current maximum of 40 weeks’ pay to a new cap of 26 weeks – the equivalent of six months – starting October 1.
I am fed up with this recession, like each of you, and I’m tired of having to bring tough news about its effect on the company and all of us. But I am not discouraged, because every week I see big gains in our drive to become the newspaper – in print and electronically – for all of Tampa Bay.
The faster we make those gains, the more we will control our own fortunes, whether or not the economy offers much help. Meanwhile, I remain enormously proud of this organization, and proud to work with all of you.
CEO and Chairman
The St. Petersburg Times