Guild Leader Hopeful That ‘New York Times’ Cuts Will Include Few Layoffs

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By: Joe Strupp

The top Newspaper Guild official in The New York Times newsroom is hopeful that the upcoming job cuts at the newspaper will be handled with few if any layoffs following a meeting with Times management Wednesday.

Lena Williams, unit chair for the Times, said the success of a buyout offer last spring, which resulted in 32 buyouts, 21 targeted workers finding other Times jobs, and just five layoffs, bodes well for the upcoming cutback plan.

“What is going to be offered now is exactly what was offered in the spring of this year,” Williams said Thursday, referring to the May 2005 buyout that targeted non-editorial employees, but eventually expanded to include editorial workers who wanted to take the buyout. “We have a system in place that works well and we will adhere to it.”

Williams’ comments followed a Wednesday meeting between guild leaders and several human resources officials from the Times, who met to discuss the recent announcement that up to 500 jobs throughout The New York Times Company would be eliminated. Those include 250 from the division that includes NYTimes.com, International Herald Tribune, and the Times newspaper.

Times officials declined to comment on the buyout plans or what was discussed at the meeting.

Although the meeting did not produce any specific timeline for a buyout offer, Williams said the guild contract requires that the paper utilize the same guidelines that were used in the spring buyout offer. Those include giving 15 weeks salary to employees with six years of service or less, 30 weeks salary to those with six to 11 years of service, three weeks salary multiplied by years of service for those with 11 to 35 years of service, and two years salary for employees with more than 35 years of service.

“We thought by yesterday we would know which departments would be targeted and what dates we would start getting offers,” Williams said, noting that only the newsroom, which is targeted to lose 45 people, has been given a specific number of cuts. “They said they had to start talking to managers and hold meetings.”

Executive Editor Bill Keller told E&P last week that avoiding layoffs had become his first priority during the ongoing job reduction plan.

Williams, a sports writer who will soon leave the paper after taking her own buyout last spring, remained positive that the system in place could result in few if any layoffs. “The members were hopeful because the process worked so well just a few months ago,” she said. “We’re hopeful that the impact won’t be as great as it seems because when we had the other buyout, they got the number of people they wanted.”

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