Advance Publications Ends Long-standing ‘No-Layoffs’ Pledge

By: Joe Strupp

Advance Publications’ Newhouse Newspapers, one of the only major newspaper chains to avoid non-union layoffs throughout the recent upheavals suffered by its industry, is planning to remove its long-standing “no-layoffs” pledge.

Publishers at the chain’s 20 daily newspapers, which include The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.; The Oregonian in Portland, the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, broke the news to staffers Wednesday.

“We wanted to communicate to employees that this is coming,” said
Steve Newhouse, chairman of AdvanceNet, the chain’s online division, and a member of the Newhouse family, the company’s longtime owners. “We have had a pledge not to lay off employees for economic conditions or advances in technology.”

But Newhouse said recent industry problems have forced the company to rescind the pledge. He said staffers are being told today that the pledge will remain for six more months, and then layoffs could occur.

“It was not a pledge that applied to the kind of transitional moment in the newspaper industry that is basically struggling to survive,” he said, noting it only applied to the company’s daily newspapers.

The end of the no-layoff pledge for non-union staffers follows last year’s string of buyouts at many Advance papers, including more than 200 at The Star-Ledger, as well as furloughs implemented at most of the dailies this year.

“As all of us are working to keep our daily newspapers going, the pledge in many respects became a deterrent to actions that could actually save the daily newspapers and jobs for the majority of employees,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse stressed that no layoff plans have been made and none would occur for at least six months. He said today’s notification is “an alert that we need the flexibility to take the steps to address our newspapers’ revenue decline.”

In December, Advance Publications laid off 27 Plain Dealer newsroom employees in Cleveland who were represented by the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild. The guild filed a grievance against the paper over those terminations, and it is still pending.

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