The Associated Press Offers Buyouts

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By: Joe Strupp

The Associated Press is quietly offering buyouts that include $500 for each year of service and increased pension benefits to several hundred veteran employees, according to AP and a News Media Guild statement.

Although the buyouts were offered three weeks ago, AP did not publicize them outside of the news cooperative and the guild offered only a notice on its Web site.

Guild leaders have not immediately responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

The buyouts were first offered April 29, according to the News Media Guild Web site. The deadline for accepting is June 22 for technology employees and July 13 for all other U.S.-based employees, according to AP Director of Media Relations Paul Colford. He did not state how many buyouts are being sought.

A News Media Guild notice says that 263 members at AP domestic offices are eligible, along with another 100 management employees. To be considered for a buyout, the employee must be at least 55 years of age, have at least 10 years of AP service, but the combination of age and years of service must also add up to 75.

The buyout includes a $500 cash payment for each year of service with AP and a pension payout that is 14% to 16% above the amount the employee would ordinarily receive.

Asked about more specifics, Colford provided the following statement:
“The Associated Press is offering a voluntary early retirement program, with enhanced benefits, to AP employees who qualify in terms of age and years of service. We are hopeful that the offer will help us meet our goal, announced last year, of reducing staff costs by 10 percent this year.”

That cost-cutting effort has already included a hiring freeze instituted in late 2008 when the 10% cost-reduction goal was first announced.

The Guild posting added: “Employees accepting the voluntary [buyout] offer will have to sign a general release that waives potential lawsuits against AP and rehire rights. That is common practice.”

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