The number of newsroom employees accepting buyouts at the San Francisco Chronicle has fallen short so far of the company’s goals, which could prompt layoffs. Chron management had said that it wanted to cut the paper’s newsroom staff by 100 employees – 20 from management and 80 from the union. But so far, only about 50 union workers have accepted the company’s buyout offer, said Michael Cabanatuan, local president of the Northern California Media Workers Guild. Under the union contract, if layoffs were to occur, employees with the least seniority would be the first to go.
To date, about twenty union employees have voluntarily accepted the buyout offer, which is two weeks of pay for every one year of service, topping out at one year of pay, Cabanatuan said. In addition, Chron management has been handpicking people for the buyouts. Some Chron insiders say management has been choosing senior staffers to rid the company of their higher salaries. Cabanatuan estimated that the number of people handpicked by the company was in the “high 50s.”
However, many of those people have refused to accept the buyout offer, Cabanatuan said. “There have been some who have turned it down,” he said. He estimated that only about thirty of the nearly sixty people handpicked for the buyout have accepted it. He said he could not be more specific, because the offer gives people a week to change their minds.
Some Chron insiders have worried that the company will reassign employees who have plum positions to less desirable ones if they refuse the buyout. But Cabanatuan said the union contract prohibits “punitive” reassignments.
Earlier this week, in a meeting with union representatives, management officials said not enough newsroom employees had accepted the buyouts and asked the union for suggestions. “We said ‘Do more buyouts,” Cabanatuan said. He said that the union believes layoffs are too “divisive.” He noted that although the layoffs would be made in inverse order of seniority, the contract allows the company to identify up to one-quarter of the staff in each department as being exempt from layoff regardless of how long they’ve been at the paper.
The company, he said, agreed to keep offering buyouts, but if not enough employees accept offers, layoffs are possible. Earlier this week, the San Jose Mercury News laid off 31 newsroom employees . The company also said that another 15 people had voluntarily resigned in the past few weeks. The Merc did not offer buyouts.
The following is a list of Chron newsroom union employees who have officially accepted the buyouts either voluntarily or at the request of the company and whose deadlines for changing their minds have expired, Cabanatuan said:
Anne Schrager, photo technician
Christina Koci-Hernandez, photographer
Elizabeth Mangelsdorf, photographer
Glenn Martin, reporter
Heather Jones, copyeditor
Ilene Lelchuk, reporter
Patrick Hoge, reporter
Keay Davidson, reporter
Kathy Seligman, features reporter
Mike Weiss, features reporter
Pia Sarkar, business reporter