UPDATE: Lee Orders Chain-Wide Wage Freeze, 401(k) Match Halt While ‘Post-Dispatch,’ Others Add Furloughs

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Lee Enterprises is imposing a company-wide pay freeze and halting all matching company contributions to 401(k) retirement plans, while allowing individual publishers to determine whether to order unpaid furloughs to cut costs further.

Some Lee newspaper around the nation – including its biggest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — have implemented the furloughs.

Details vary, but most of the unpaid days must be taken by early spring.

Lee’s vice president of communications, Dan Hayes, said the pay freeze and 401(k) match suspension were company-wide initiatives, while furloughs are a “local determination.”

The Associated Press reported the Post-Dispatch is requiring all non-union employees to take a one-week unpaid furlough that must be taken by March 31. About 300 employees were directed to take the unpaid leave.

Merit pay raises and matching company contributions to 401(k) retirement plans have also been suspended at the Post-Dispatch and other papers, including the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier.

“Like other companies, Lee Enterprises and the Rapid City Journal have had to make some difficult decisions over the past year,” Journal Publisher Brad Slater said in a story in the paper. “Regrettably, the economic news does not hold much hope for turning around any time soon.” Slater said details of a furlough program are being worked out.

The Journal also announced the layoffs of four employees.

All Courier employees must take an unpaid week off before April 1.

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