Company exceeds $1.1 million savings goal through early retirements

News management exceeded its buyout goals this week through the early retirement incentive that expired Monday. In all, 27 Guild employees will be off the payroll by the end of the week. Their wages and benefits represent a savings to The News of $1.7 million, substantially higher than its goal of $1.1 million.

The early retirement incentive, crafted with the help of the Guild, provided additional years of service or age credits toward employee pensions.

The offer proved enticing to Guild employees. Every department met its targeted reduction numbers through the pension improvement offer. The impact of the employee reduction by department:

• Nine district managers applied for the early retirement incentive, the target number, and all nine were accepted. Those departing include Dick Fay (Guild vice president for contract administration), Ed Fay, Fred Gerber, David Hauck, Kim Hill, Dave Irwin (former Guild Finance Committee chairman), Tim Milligan, Gerald Ratigan and Mark Truskey. All nine are permitted to return to work as part timers.

• Ten editorial employees, two above the target number, applied, but only the eight most senior were accepted. The eight are reporters Mike Beebe, Tom Buckham (Guild chief steward), Peter Simon and Gene Warner; TV critic Alan Pergament, and editors Jim Brennan, Dorothy Keenan and Bill Lukasiak. As of this date, no offers of part-time work have been extended to these employees, although some expressed interest.

• Four employees in Accounting/Bookkeeping/Credit applied. The department was seeking only three reductions but accepted all four requests. They are former Guild stewards Gerry Bernardi and Linda College, as well as Kathy Lake and Pat Thuman.

• Three employees in Inside Circulation applied. The department was seeking only one reduction but accepted all three requests. Those departing are Brenda Adams, Rose Nagy and Kathy Rhoss.

• Five employees in Classified Advertising applied, but only the three most-senior applicants were accepted. They are Gloria Greene, Donna Grimaldi and Janet Sherman, all former Guild activists. The company’s target number was three.

The early retirement incentive was considered the first phase of a two-phase buyout offer. The second phase would have involved extending full-time employees a cash offer of 1½ times their annual base wage. Since the company exceeded its employee reduction goals in the first phase, the second phase of the buyout will not be offered.

The company has been seeking to cut expenses this year by $5.7 million across all departments. Of that amount, $1.07 million was to come from Guild ranks.

Dan Farberman, vice president for human resources, said Tuesday that the 27 employees who took the early retirement incentive amount to $1.66 million in savings. He added that The News intends to hire some part-timers as replacements, which would offset the overall savings figure for the company but still exceed its targeted savings goal.

The company’s downsizing efforts since early last year have taken a dramatic toll. The News has cut $4.6 million in expenses from departments represented by the Guild, and eliminated 73 jobs.

The ranks of full-time district managers, who play a key role in customer service, have been slashed by 33, leaving only nine, plus a growing cadre of part-timers.

The newsroom has lost 22 positions, including 10 reporters and critics, six editors, a graphic artist and five clerks. In addition, four reporters and editors who have died in the past year-and-a-half have not been replaced.

“We’re not just losing people; we’re losing a lot of talent and experience, which makes it all the more important that The News get serious about ‘reinvention,’” said Jim Heaney, a Guild executive committee member who participated in buyout discussions with management earlier this year. “Maintaining the status quo will only exacerbate the negative impact of the buyouts.”