ProJo seeks to cut 1.2M in costs; layoffs possible

Oct 12, 2012

After a series of buyouts extending to the time before the Dallas-based Belo Corporation bought the Providence Jounal in 1997, layoffs remain possible as the newspaper looks to cut $1.2 million in expenses.

The targeted figure for cuts — the rough equivalent of 16 employees in advertising, circulation, and the newsroom — was identified in a Facebook post by reporter Linda Borg.

The Providence Newspaper Guild, the ProJo’s largest union, has tried to avert layoffs through an offer of voluntary concessions. The Phoenix’s David Scharfenberg has this:

John Hill, a reporter who serves as president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, says the paper has indicated that it would be willing to accept concessions from union workers in lieu of layoffs. Talks on any deal, he says, will begin “very soon.”

The union has conducted a survey of union members, who have not had a raise since 2008 and are paying more out-of-pocket for health care coverage than they once did, to determine what kind of concessions they might be willing to make. He declined to discuss the results of that survey, but said the poll will guide the union’s negotiations with management.

If the two sides can’t strike a deal hitting the full $1.2 million target, management would likely lay off enough employees to reach that number.

The Journal has told the guild that the average union member – newsroom and advertising staff – costs the paper about $75,000 per year.

Update: Hill tells me the talks meant to avert or reduce layoffs are expected to end in November. He says management is targeting a dollar figure in cost reductions, not the particular elmination of jobs.

For media-watchers, not to mention ProJo staffers, the prospect of further cuts is distressing. The newspaper’s staff has been winnowed considerably over the last decade. If 15 or 16 jobs need to be cut on Fountain Street, that could be in the area of five to six newsroom jobs.

This post has been updated.