The Gannett Co. recently announced it would require most of its employees to take a week of unpaid leave before the end of March. A journalism blog I like to follow recently commented on Gannett’s decision to require this furlough; Reflections of a Newsosaur’s Alan Mutter noted that it could save 600 jobs. And Joe Strupp wrote on Editor & Publisher’s website that many are saying it’s better than job cuts.
But Strupp and Mutter both acknowledge that a forced furlough in the first quarter of 2009 will be hard on staffers who are counting on that week’s pay to make ends meet. Mutter writes, “Because most Gannett employees are not unionized, they will have no choice but to accept the furlough – and they won’t be paid anything for the time they have lost. On the other hand, one hopes, they’ll still have their jobs when they get back.”
I wanted to see how the furlough is really affecting people. So I checked in with a former coworker who still works for a Gannett-owned paper. He was taking a day of his furlough last week. He reported that it’s a lot easier on hourly workers to take a day here and there of unpaid leave over the next month or so than it is for the editors and other salaried employees who must take the whole week of unpaid leave at once. In better economic times, it might not matter so much. But everyone’s bank account is hurting these days, and it really hurts to lose a whole week’s pay right now. Especially if you’re still making student loan payments, have a mortgage or have a spouse who is, for whatever reason, not working and drawing a paycheck. But as my friend noted, at least he’s still got a job. He’s just having to really watch every penny. I asked him if there were any rumors about Gannett requiring any other furloughs or sacrifices from employees after the first quarter was over, and he said he hadn’t heard any. Yet.
When will things turn around?