Fayette County

Herald-Leader union approves wage cuts; 14 jobs to be eliminated

Members of the Lexington Newspaper Guild voted in favor of a Herald-Leader company proposal Wednesday night that would mean the loss of the equivalent of 14 union-covered jobs in the newsroom.

The union's members agreed to a 5 percent wage reduction for all Guild-covered employees making more than $25,000 and less than $100,000 a year. The union's members also agreed that the company would have the right to implement a one-week unpaid furlough for union-covered employees through March 31, 2010.

If the union had not agreed to the wage cuts and possible furlough, the cuts could have been deeper, with the equivalent of about 19 full-time, union-covered jobs eliminated.

The vote was 83 percent to 17 percent in favor of the company proposal, according to the Guild. The union's leadership declined to say how many dues-paying members the Guild has, though it said 100 percent of such Guild members voted.

About 75 full- and part-time Herald-Leader employees are covered by the union, including reporters, photographers and copy editors.

"The union movement is all about standing up for the greater good, and today Guild members overwhelmingly voted to make personal sacrifices for the good of their colleagues and the company," Guild president Brandon Ortiz said. "When this company eventually returns to health, and the Guild believes it will, we expect to be rewarded for the sacrifices we made for the good of the company."

The proposal approved by Guild membership also means that laid-off union-covered workers will receive the same severance package as the company is offering for non-union employees, which is richer than that provided in the Guild contract.

In a statement, Herald-Leader publisher Timothy M. Kelly said: "I understand the difficulty of the decision that the Guild membership had to face, and I am appreciative that it chose to come down on the side of preserving as many jobs as possible."

The measures agreed to by the Guild do not reflect the total impact of cuts expected at the Herald-Leader. Earlier this week, Kelly said in an e-mail to the staff that the full extent of the cuts throughout the newspaper would be made clear to employees on or before Monday.

The newspaper employs the equivalent of 335 full-time workers. The newsroom has 105 full-time equivalent employees, including union and non-union workers.

The McClatchy Co., which owns the Herald-Leader, the Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee and other newspapers, said earlier this month that it planned to cut 1,600 jobs, or 15 percent of its work force.

While still profitable, the company faces declining ad revenue from the recession as well as heavy debt from its 2006 acquisition of Knight Ridder Inc., which owned the Herald-Leader.