Dear Guild Members:
Stunned to get a message from The Inquirer’s publisher speaking of “a tough economic climate,” inflation and a “likely” recession necessitating a buyout after just hearing at the last quarterly update about us hitting or exceeding all sorts of goals, including the much-prized digital subscriptions? Well, I’m not.
Nothing coincidental about the timing of this warning of fraught financial times: We’re about to head into contract talks. They are priming us, folks, for their downcast gazes at the bargaining table where they try to suggest this is not a company that can afford cost-of-living adjustments and raises.
Yep, standard stage setting for bargaining. If only this company was as transparent about its diversity shortcomings that earned it the embarrassing first-ever PABJ Thumbs Down Award this past weekend. You didn’t see the company addressing its employees about that, did you? But a threat about economic tough goings as we head into the holidays and bargaining? That they prioritized.
And notice they didn’t announce this jarring news during the World Series. Wouldn’t want to detract all our members who worked tirelessly and with unmatched expertise to deliver must-read and must-see accounts of all the action in the stadiums here and in Houston, on and off the field. The company needed everyone to deliver during that unexpected postseason run and it got it multiple times over.
The thanks: an email that it now needs people to leave. While emphasizing in bold print it’s VOLUNTARY but not addressing what happens if not enough people VOLUNTARILY leave.
Well, I can tell you: Layoffs have been the fallback in such circumstances in the past. After all, this is a company with no more printing plants to sell or American Rescue Plan grants to collect.
The L word is not the message that should be coming from a company that wants to be seen by job applicants as a place to build careers.
Buyouts will be welcomed by some. They are people who have been at this company more than 25 years and have helped it survive through so many rough times. If they want to now part with some money, we wish them happy and healthy years ahead. If they don’t want to go, we should applaud their continued dedication to this very tough yet satisfying industry.
Let me point out that a chunk of the 25-years-and-over group targeted for the buyouts are the intrepid print coordinators in the newsroom who have endured months of a print redesign of The Inquirer and Daily News coupled with learning a new publishing system that continues to provide them daily challenges and enormous amounts of stress. We owe each of them a giant debt of gratitude.
So, we await more details on this predictably timed buyout and the vagueness of the email that delivered it in omitting what happens if desired buyout numbers aren’t hit.
I hope that doesn’t mean layoffs. This company can’t afford another Thumbs Down Award.
In solidarity (and keeping our striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette friends in our thoughts and care),