Guild Criticism Targets McClatchy CEO Pruitt in Job Cutbacks

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By: Joe Strupp

Newspaper Guild locals are criticizing McClatchy for its planned cutback of some 1,400 employees — or 10% of the workforce — announced Monday, with complaints that point to CEO Gary Pruitt’s last large bonus.

The Lexington (Ky.) Newspaper Guild slammed McClatchy and Pruitt following Monday’s announcement that 17 staffers would be ousted at the Lexington Herald-Leader — about 4% of its workforce. Out west, Walter Yost, vice chair of The Sacramento Bee unit of the Northern California Media Workers, posted a complaint on the union’s Web site that also took Pruitt to task.

In a release, the local Lexington guild unit — which represents about 100 staffers — criticized Pruitt for the cutbacks, citing the CEO’s $800,000 bonus from last year as McClatchy’s stock continues to plummet.

“McClatchy Corp. CEO Gary Pruitt promised McClatchy employees in April that any future cuts would be made ‘sensibly, humanely and with an eye toward the future,'” the release stated in part. “The Guild does not believe it is humane when employees who have put in a lifetime of service to McClatchy and Knight Ridder are thrown to the curb, while McClatchy?s excessive corporate bureaucracy remains untouched. In fact, just last week McClatchy added a new corporate vice president.”

Pruitt and Herald-Leader Publisher Timothy Kelly could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

The statement, from Lexington Guild Leader Brandon Ortiz, added, “The Guild does not believe it is sensible that Mr. Pruitt is allowed to keep his $800,000 performance bonus from last year, even though McClatchy stock has lost 71% of its value.

“The Guild does not believe downsizing is the best approach to our future and believes McClatchy and the Herald-Leader would be more successful by strengthening core departments and improving Web sites, while seeking additional venues for its quality products.”

The union ended by saying: “The Lexington Newspaper Guild understands that in these challenging times that change and sacrifice are necessary. But sacrifices should be made in an equitable manner and not as a short-term response to long-term financial concerns.”

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Yost wrote: “It seems that when large corporations decide to cut costs or ‘trim the fat’ it?s almost always wage earners who feel the brunt. Sharing the pain is rarely something management cares to partake in. That helps explain why a Bee newsroom aide earning barely $20,000 a year loses his job while McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt, who was paid $4.6 million last year in addition to an $800,000 performance bonus, can say about Monday?s layoffs, ‘I?m sorry this requires the painful announcement we are making today, but we?re taking this action to help ensure a healthy future for our company.'”

The Bee announced plans to cut 8.1% of its workforce, or some 86 jobs, including 46 from layoffs.

“Corporate management can always be counted on to do one thing: take care of themselves. The rest of us can fend for ourselves,” Yost’s posting added. “These are certainly tough times for newspapers. But the ‘solution’ newspaper owners keep turning to — repeatedly cutting staff — isn?t the only way to financial solvency. It?s just the most expedient.”

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