‘St. Louis P-D’ Offers ‘Voluntary Retirement’ for Staffers Over 50

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By: E&P Staff

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which recently passed from Pulitzer to Lee Enterprises ownership, circulated an internal memo Monday outlining a plan to cut costs and work force with a new, one-time-only ?Voluntary Retirement Incentive? for those over the age of 50.

The memo to staffers was posted this afternoon at the Romenesko site at Poynter.org.

It asserted that the ownership change had nothing to do with this move: ?We made the decision locally but consulted with our parent company before acting. It was a necessary business decision, and we would have taken the same action if Pulitzer had not been sold.?

The action, the memo said, was merely ?part of our overall efforts to control expenses, we need to reduce our staffing levels in some areas. The reason is that operating costs are continuing to rise, and, despite some bright spots, the advertising revenue environment remains a challenge.

?We believe the best way to do this is to provide a generous early retirement incentive that rewards long-term employees who have helped make and keep our newspaper strong.? Noting that 50 is an unusually early age, it said that this would give staffers a good shot at a second career.

As always in these cases, there appears to be some question of how a newspaper is helped by losing employees who are presently keeping it ?strong.? Addressing such concerns, the memo said, ?The quality of our journalism and the capability of our staff are very important to us. While some talented people may depart with this opportunity, we will continue to maintain and grow our quality standards.?

Here are a few details:

?The program is being made available to regular full-time and regular part-time employees in specific areas who are age 50 and above as of November 1, 2005 with at least five (5) consecutive years of service.

?It was designed in part based on suggestions and requests made by employees.?

?In addition to this incentive, we will continue to work to control other costs, as well as continue to improve our product and step up our sales programs.?

?If interest is too great in any work area, it might be necessary to impose limits on the number of people who can be accepted into the program, and departure dates may need to be staggered.?

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