‘Roanoke Times’ Seeks Buyouts — Cites ‘Unprecedented’ Business Climate

By: E&P Staff

The Roanoke (Va.) Times announced Friday it is seeking job cuts via buyouts. It has already eliminated for frozen 27 positions.

The paper posted on its Web site, Roanoke.com, the following memo from Publisher Debbie Meade.
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As you know, over the past several months we have discussed the need for The Roanoke Times to transform itself in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. Like the media industry as a whole, we?re taking steps to reinvent our company to remain relevant to our existing customers and to seek out new customers in new markets. We?re dealing with business conditions unprecedented in our long history. The Company Leadership Team has taken steps to create an overall plan to maintain The Roanoke Times? fiscal integrity. Some of the steps have been difficult. All of them have been necessary. We have eliminated or frozen 27 positions. We are re-organizing departments. We are controlling expenses. We are employing technology to gain efficiencies.

As part of our transformation, we anticipate a need for a reduction in our workforce to occur sometime this year. Prior to conducting any involuntary workforce reductions that might be needed, we are making a voluntary retirement incentive offer (RIO) to employees who meet the following specific eligibility requirements as of September 1, 2007:

They are full-time employees,
They are age 58 or older,
They have at least 15 years of vesting service, and
They are not considered highly compensated employees, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code.
Based on these criteria, 21 people are eligible for this offer.

The incentive being offered is six months’ compensation based on their 2006 wages, a bridge benefit to Social Security benefits payable at age 62, plus a $2,400 benefit enhancement. All of these are pension plan benefits that are in addition to the regular pension benefit. Both the six months’ pay and the $2,400 incentive amounts may be paid either as a lump sum or in a monthly annuity. The Social Security bridge benefit is paid as an annuity, in the same manner as the regular pension benefit. Those people who are eligible are being sent additional information about the offer, as well as an invitation to attend a meeting where more details will be shared and where they can ask questions. Those eligible will have six weeks to decide to accept or reject the offer. Retirements will be effective Sept. 1.

Offering this voluntary RIO allows The Roanoke Times another way to manage costs while also providing an excellent financial opportunity for eligible employees who are ready to retire or who are interested in seeking career opportunities elsewhere. Our hope is that the voluntary RIO will reduce the number of positions that might need to be eliminated through involuntary workforce reductions. Once the voluntary RIO is over, we will assess our needs. Employees eligible for the voluntary RIO who don?t elect it will be treated the same as employees who were not eligible, and may be included in involuntary workforce reductions. We do not know yet who might be included in future workforce reductions or the exact timing of such decisions should they become ecessary.

We are committed to openly communicating all changes in a timely manner. Jean Lamkin, Interim HR Director, is the spokesperson for the RIO. All inquiries about the offer should be directed to her. Karen Belcher and Sherrie Yates in HR are coordinating the individual RIO packets. All inquiries about the individual packets should go to them. A question-and-answer document about the offer will be posted for all employees to read.

The Roanoke Times continues to be a strong company. The RIO is one of many steps the company is taking to transform itself to assure its continued growth and profitability. It also provides an opportunity for employees who meet the offer?s criteria and who want to retire to make the transition.

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