Editor Russ Stanton, in offering the package clearly aimed at getting older staffers to leave, suggests that Sam Zell's message is "take it or else."
Sam's people have indicated that this is very likely the last time there will be these types of benefits should we face the unfortunate circumstance of having to reduce our workforce in the future.
Stanton's message to the Times newsroom this afternoon follows:
From: Stanton, Russ
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 5:28 PM
Subject: The buyout program
As you heard from Sam and David last week, we continue to face a challenging revenue environment and are embarking on another cost-reduction effort. Here are the details of the voluntary separation program.
--If your application to leave the company is accepted, you'll receive one week of pay for every six months of service, with a minimum of six weeks' pay and a maxium of 52 weeks. The cash portion of the benefit will be through the Cash Balance Pension Plan in the form of a contribution to your cash balance account. You can elect to receive the payout in a variety of forms, including a lump sum. The company will increase the amount you're due by 3% to offset any early withdrawal fees.
-- If you're 53 or 54 years old and have 10 years of service with The Times, you will be treated as though you're 55 (on an unpaid basis) and you might be eligible for retiree medical benefits (if you meet other retiree medical eligibility requirements). If you're under 53, healthcare coverage will continue at the rate of one week for every six months of employment, for a minimum of 12 weeks and a maximum of 52 weeks.
Outplacement services will be provided for those seeking other employment.
-- To apply for the prrgram, you must complete the application form and submit it to Susan Denley in Editorial Hiring by noon on Monday, March 3, 2008. If your application is accepted, your employment with us will conclude at the end of March.
Sam's people have indicated that this is very likely the last time there will be these types of benefits should we face the unfortunate circumstance of having to reduce our workforce in the future. And please note that not everyone who applies is guaranteed to be accepted. Issues such as job classification, compliance with eligibility criteria and other factors also will be considered.
As I said last week, I am not happy about this cycle of seemingly endless cuts. But unfortunately, we also have to be realistic about the economy and the changes affecting our industry. I am looking forward to a time in the very near future when we can concentrate on journalism and move forward together to build a sustainable future.
More information about the program can be found on TimesLink, and we expect a Q&A to be posted there by the end of the day. In addition, there will be two meetings for editorial employees this week, one from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and another from 3 pm. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Both of these meetings will be held in the Salon on the 5th floor.