Gannett Orders Company-wide Furloughs; USAT Freezes Wages For '09

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Gannett (NYSE: GCI) is ordering its 40,000-person workforce to take a week off without pay this quarter, as it seeks to cut costs without resorting to more layoffs. Gannett Blog's Jim Hopkins has memos on the mandatory time-off from company CEO Craig Dubow (here) and newspaper division president Bob Dickey (here). Dubow mentions that the all executives, himself included, have to take unpaid leave. Even unionized staffers are being told to participate as well. A FAQ also posted on GannettBlog notes that there will be a few exceptions, including "certain essential employees," who were otherwise unspecified. Also, newly hired employees and other individuals and units who are impacted by other expense reduction measures also can avoid the time-off period. Dubow: "...we decided a furlough program would be the fairest and least intrusive way to meet these fiscal challenges in the first quarter, which is traditionally the lightest time of the year."

In his memo, Dickey adds that "exempt, salaried employees must take one full payroll week within the pay period," while "non-exempt, hourly employees"  can take five days at any pre-approved time before the last weekend in March. Last month, the Seattle-Press asked the same of its 500 non-union staffers. In October, Gannett said it was laying off about 3,000 staffers at its 80 local papers across the country, while just two months before that, the publisher said it was eliminating 1,000 positions, with 600 staffers being let go.

Meanwhile, Gannett flagship USA Today is also making sacrifices, Hopkins notes elsewhere on his blog. In a memo attributed to USAT Publisher Craig Moon, no one at the paper will receive a pay raise after February 1. Over the past few weeks, Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) and NYT execs also announced that there would be no pay hike this year, again, due to the uncertain economy and declining ad review outlook.

By David Kaplan