The new year already is looking a lot like the old one for employees at The Enquirer.
Workers at Cincinnati's only remaining daily newspaper got some bad news Wednesday: They can expect to take another five-day furlough during the first quarter of 2011. Robert J. Dickey, who is U.S. newspaper division president at The Gannett Co., The Enquirer's parent firm, announced the latest round of furloughs in a memo sent to workers.
"As we start the new year, we continue to see some improvement in revenue trends and reduced year-over-year revenue declines in U.S. Community Publishing," Dickey wrote. "This is no small accomplishment and I think you should take great pride in what you have achieved. Our top line revenues, however, while improving, remain short of where they were a year ago. This is compounded by a still challenging and uncertain economy, as well as increasing expenses."
The memo continued, "During the first quarter, non-union USCP employees will be furloughed for five business days. Exempt, salaried employees must take one full payroll week within the pay period, to be completed by Sunday, March 27. Outside sales people will take five days that can be completed at any pre-approved time before the last weekend in March."
Last spring Gannett announced a furlough program that required most non-unionized workers to take at least five days of unpaid leave sometime in April, May or June. The move saved the company about $20 million. Also, executives announced a similar furlough in 2010's first quarter, prompted by declining stock prices and advertising revenues.
More than 1,200 employees were laid off at Gannett's newspaper holdings nationwide in 2009, including 101 people at The Enquirer.
As Jim Hopkins notes on his excellent Gannett Blog, savings from the earlier furloughs were used to justify $4 million in bonuses for the company's top five highest-paid employees in 2009.
From the blog: "The company achieved substantial expense reductions through a variety of efforts," the board's four-member executive compensation committee told shareholders on March 18, "including continued centralization and consolidation efforts, significant headcount reductions, furloughs, and salary freezes and reductions."
Among those receiving bonuses was Dickey, who got a $410,000 bonus as part of his $1.9 million in overall 2009 compensation.
In his memo to employees yesterday, Dickey wrote, "I know furloughs are very hard on you and your families and I thank each of you for the continued commitment and great work.."
Dickey solicited comments and questions from employees, inviting them to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a suggestion: During employees' furlough time, they get to sleepover at Dickey's place, and get a full spa treatment to help with stress.