Advertiser parent furloughs to save money


POSTED: Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thousands of Gannett Co. employees will be required to take one week of unpaid leave during the first quarter, the company announced yesterday.

The furlough applies across all U.S. divisions as well as corporate headquarters, according to a memo from Chief Executive Craig Dubow.

Gannett owns 85 daily newspapers, including the Honolulu Advertiser, and 23 TV stations in the U.S. It has more than 40,000 employees.

Citing the “;most difficult economic conditions we have ever experienced,”; Dubow said the furlough was seen as the “;fairest and least intrusive way to meet these fiscal challenges in the first quarter, which is traditionally the lightest time of the year. We sincerely hope this minimizes the need for any layoffs going forward.”;

Unions will also be asked to participate, he said.

The company cannot force collective-bargaining-unit employees to take the unpaid leave, said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild. The union represents workers at the Honolulu Advertiser and its other local publications.

However, he said it would not surprise him if management floated a furlough proposal during the next negotiating session the week of Jan. 26.

The two sides are working to replace a contract that expired in June of 2007.

There are about 500 unionized Gannett employees in Hawaii, down from around 600 employees 18 months ago. Gannett has reduced its work force through buyouts, terminations and job eliminations, citing the downturned economy and falling advertising revenue.

Gannett also imposed a year-long wage freeze at USA Today, its flagship paper.

Although Gannett is regarded by many analysts as one of the nation's most financially sound newspaper publishers, the economic recession and the ongoing migration of advertising to the Internet have pounded its revenue prospects, the Associated Press reported.

Most newspapers also have been hit with various layoffs, buyouts and job reductions.

The Seattle Times asked 500 managers and nonunion workers last month to take a week off without pay by February, while the Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones & Co. properties announced a one-year wage freeze for nonunion employees last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.