LOSSES AND LIPSTICK
Dear Guild Sisters and Brothers:
We are in an industry where words matter. And our credibility depends on the accuracy of our words. So, this message is not intended to put lipstick on a pig. It is to provide you with a precise account of the result of our efforts these past few weeks to stop involuntary job eliminations at The Inquirer.
In technical terms, we appear to have avoided layoffs.
You all played a critical role in that. By raising your voices in protest, and by getting your friends, family and followers to raise their voices on our behalf, an unignorable message was sent to this Company about the value of the Inquirer and the importance of preserving its valuable assets: you and your work.
But the Company, citing ever-increasingly dire data about the performance of this troubled industry, was insistent on achieving 30 job eliminations among the Guild’s 300-plus members. It achieved its goal – and then some.
In all, The Inquirer will lose 33 Guild members in the newsroom, advertising and finance. Three of those are extraordinary journalists whose voluntary departure to other journalism jobs did not cost this Company a cent – yet they were not counted among the original 30 cuts. (Management cited budgeted attrition for that unfortunate inflexibility.)
The 30 that it did count are the result of members taking a buyout, some after learning their jobs would either be changed or were otherwise at risk. Some took buyouts to save the jobs of others who were on the layoff list. That kind of charitable sacrifice is incredibly humbling – but not at all surprising from a membership that consistently has each other’s back.
In these last few days, Bill Ross and I have told management in very plain language that this process of cutting employees – whether they’re called buyouts, layoffs, or job eliminations – undermines morale in a workplace that needs all the fight it can muster to survive in this brutally competitive environment.
We also cited a crisis in confidence in Company leadership, conveying what we have heard from many of you over these many days of anxiety. We told them we crave a business plan that we believe in. We have been assured that one exists and that its implementation was delayed because of worsening financial conditions that had to first be addressed with the job cuts. (In addition, two of our members whose jobs fall under the finance department had their weekly hours reduced from 40 to 30.)
So, we prepare for what’s next. In the newsroom, that is a major reorganization of beats that the Company says is necessary to make our digital operation more dynamic and more appealing to our audience. In advertising, our sales reps will report to new managers as the Company continues to better position itself as a provider of solutions to area businesses that goes far beyond print and digital ads. Our all-important finance crew must do more with less, having lost valuable members to the buyout. And in circulation, where the buyout was not offered, our members will continue to work valiantly each day to serve our loyal subscribers.
And then come contract negotiations. We all know what MUST come out of them. The number on the tote boards continues to climb. The Inquirer can and must do better.