Here's the LAT buyout deal

As reported last week, the Times offers a buyout to most employees and will take 150. Long-term employees can receive up to a year's pay. An unstated number of positions, vacant and filled, are being eliminated. Included are voluntary cutbacks to four days a week for staffers who would like that. Publisher David Hiller's memo is after the jump (and editor Jim O'Shea's is here):

From: Hiller, David
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2007 11:04 AM
Subject: Organization Announcement


Folks,

We’re announcing today a series of actions, including an Employee Voluntary Separation Program that will eliminate between 100-150 jobs at the Los Angeles Times.

These actions reflect the fundamental and ongoing changes occurring in our business. You read last week that the company announced our first quarter financial results, and they were not good. For our whole Los Angeles Times Media Group, revenue down 4% and cash flow down 13%. There was some good news, with online revenue growing 20%. But the growth in new media is not yet big enough to offset the decline on the print side of the business. The picture was similar at the other Tribune newspapers.

Over the past months, we have been talking (and doing) a lot about how we need to change to sustain our mission and business as the best and most trusted source of news and information in Southern California. What we do is too important not to change in ways essential to sustain us into the future. We simply can’t afford not to change.

As we’ve talked about before, here are some of the major lines of how we need to change:

Re-tool everything to be fully multimedia
Grow online faster, integrated with print
Change the newspaper to better serve our local audience and reflect how readers live, and use print, today
Offer more products for more audience segments, like Hoy for the Spanish-speaking part of our communities
Invest and re-allocate resources to grow
Get our employees engaged and fired-up about how we will change, where we are going

We are making headway. Our efforts to transform the newsroom to a 24/7 multi-media world are getting traction. We are adding people and other investment to these print/online efforts, and will add more, including more interactive product development people and supporting technology.

You see progress in the new product launches and innovations, including the new TRAVEL and IMAGE sections, with rich interactive counter-parts. And there is much, much more in the pipeline.

But in addition to adding people and resources to achieve growth, we have to find expense savings to offset some of the decline in revenue on the print side. We are looking at everything:

Recent product changes, including elimination of the Sunday TV Book will save several million dollars
We have been revamping operations and distribution to find very significant efficiencies
Out-sourcing efforts in circulation call centers and the tech help desks will achieve further savings
We are finding savings in supplies, postage expense, travel, and many other areas

But, we also have to look at our staffing levels again, as painful as it is, and as many times as we have done it before. The fact is we have to take actions to keep staffing in line with the revenue picture, which currently is falling in the core print business.

So through a combination of approaches, we are planning to eliminate in the range of 100-150 positions (roughly 3% to 5% of our workforce). We have tried to approach this as carefully and thoughtfully as possible across all departments. Here are the components of the plans:

Eliminating positions that are currently open
An Employee Voluntary Separation Program
Eliminating certain other employee positions
Voluntary 4-day week for 80% of pay

Employee Voluntary Separation Program (EVSP)

We are offering a voluntary program where employees can choose to leave, based on their own personal and career situation and plans. We would plan to accept up to approximately 150 volunteers. Not all positions or areas of the company are eligible, given current business and staffing needs. The following areas are NOT eligible: Circulation Home Delivery; Interactive; Security; Technology; Times Direct; TCN; Recycler; Hoy; and CCN. For hourly employees in the pressroom unit, all aspects of the program are subject to collective bargaining, and requests to participate will not be considered until addressed by the bargaining process. In addition, a person will not generally be considered for the voluntary program if their position would have to be back-filled. A complete list of employees eligible for the EVSP can be found on TimesLink.

Open and Involuntary Position Eliminations

In addition to the voluntary program, we will be identifying other positions to be eliminated. Some of these may be positions currently open, and others are currently filled. We will decide on these positions in the same time period as the voluntary program.

Separation Package/Benefits

Individuals whose positions are eliminated or who request and are granted a voluntary separation will be provided with a separation package in exchange for signing a waiver and release agreement. Key elements of the separation package include:

One week of separation pay for every completed six months of service; minimum of four weeks, maximum of 52 weeks paid through salary continuation
Benefits continuation for eligible employees for the length of separation pay; minimum three months of health care coverage
Employer 401(k) allocation will continue for eligible employees
Outplacement assistance

Voluntary 4-day Week for 80% of Pay

One additional idea that we're considering is allowing full-time employees to voluntarily reduce their work week from five days to four days. This schedule change would also involve changing from full-time benefits to part-time benefits and, of course, would be contingent on each department's workload and staffing needs. If you think that this is something you'd like to consider, please contact your HR Generalist for details.

Schedule and Next Steps

Volunteers should submit an application no later than Monday, May 14
Decisions regarding the voluntary program and other position eliminations will be communicated no later than Friday, May 25
Employees’ last day of work generally will be no later than Friday, June 1

So that’s the plan. We will be posting a lot of additional information, including FAQs on TimesLink.

Thank you for your understanding and support as we move ahead, and for all that you do for this great newspaper and the communities we serve.

David


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