Below are memos issued Tuesday by Free Press editor and publisher Paul Anger and, separately, Lou Grieco, administrative officer of the Detroit Newspaper Guild.
In view of evolving priorities -- digital delivery of news and continued robust reporting -- plus budget challenges, please know that we will be reducing staff in the job classifications below. We notified the Guild today. Reductions will be done according to total Free Press Guild seniority within the particular jobs affected, unless exemptions to seniority are used.
This notice starts a 30-day period before any layoffs occur, and volunteers within the affected classifications may step forward during the first 14 days, ending Jan. 20. On Jan. 21, we will accept or decline proffered resignations, decide on exemptions, and give final notification of employees who will be laid off.
• Editorial Research Assistant -- 2 positions
• Photographer -- 1 position
• Artist -- 2 positions
Because severance terms for bargaining unit positions vary based on each employee's start date, please refer to the contract, Article XIV, for specifics. Severance will be paid as a salary continuation.
We'll be respectful of the staff members who will be departing, and of the process as it unfolds over the next 30 days.
Newspaper Guild message to members
Subject: Regarding today's layoff announcement
As many of you have undoubtedly heard, Free Press management plans to lay off five people in the Guild bargaining unit, effective Feb. 5. (The company informed me earlier this morning and I have been discussing this situation with unit chair John Gallagher, but we wanted to wait for the company to make its announcement before we responded).
The plans are to lay off two artists, two editorial research assistants and one photographer. This is, of course, terrible news for the newspaper, the newsroom, for the customers and most of all, for those employees who are vulnerable to losing their jobs.
Layoffs must be done in reverse order of bargaining unit seniority within that job classification. Under the seniority list sent to me by the company, there are only two artists left in that category. There are six people listed in the editorial research assistant classification and 13 in the photographer classification. Please let me know if any of this information appears to be incorrect.
The one exception to layoff by seniority is that up to eight employees may be designated by management to be exempt during the term of the contract. I do not know if that is in play here.
The contract does allow for, during the 14-day period after the initial notice, the opportunity for others to resign to mitigate the need for layoffs. Obviously, if you’re planning to leave in the near future, I need to know that now, particularly if you’re in the affected classifications. Even if you’re not, but are still interested in leaving, please let me know if you’re interested in my trying to negotiate a buyout for you. (Note: I only want to do this if it will mitigate the layoffs, and there is no guarantee that the company will agree.)
Lastly, let’s look out for our colleagues. You have been through this before, and I have too, in my past life at the Dayton Daily News. It’s horrible, particularly for those who are vulnerable. But it’s also difficult for the “survivors” who often feel guilty about their survival, while also picking up additional work and saying goodbye to trusted colleagues and close friends. No one wins in this situation, except maybe the shareholders. (Bully for them). Please let me know if there is anything we can do for the folks who are affected by this, whether it’s those who will be leaving or those who remain.
The Newspaper Guild of Detroit