Off Beat

An Offer They Can't Refuse?

EVER SINCE MANAGERS at the Pioneer Press outlined plans last month to pare the paper's payroll by ten percent ("No Pain=Gain," May 23), staffers at the Knight Ridder paper have been understandably nervous. And so, Off Beat hears, last week when early retirement and buyout offers were tendered to employees a wave of relief rolled through the Pi Press offices. According to Mike Sweeney, executive officer of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild/Typographical Union, the deals are a little sweeter than staffers expected: Most employees are eligible for a minimum of six months of their salary and a maximum of two years. Early retirement packages offered to newsroom employees 55 or older, who have at least 10 years with the company, call for three weeks of pay for every year of service. The early retirement offers also include a $1,000 bonus for every year of service, up to $24,000. "It seems to be a pretty attractive package," says Sweeney. "People are surprised." Newspaper Guild members are said to be relieved that the company is looking to trim eight jobs from the newsroom, a much lower number than staffers had feared initially. (Terms of the packages offered vary from department to department, he notes.) If enough employees take the offers, the company can avoid layoffs. (Off Beat's calls to publisher Rick Sadowski have gone unreturned.) Relieved though he and his crew are, Sweeney still questions why a profitable company needs to get rid of any employees.

We Don't Understand it Either

OFF BEAT HAS been so troubled by the financial difficulties over at the Pi Press that we've taken to brainstorming ideas on how the not-quite-profitable-enough daily might cut costs. So it was, late the other evening while drifting in and out of sleep, that we thought back to a 1999 Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine profile of Pi Press columnist Joe Soucheray that contained this very informative nugget from the Garage Logic impresario: "It takes me an hour and ten minutes to write a column." Good golly that man is fast! Like canned lightning that Sooch! Taking a glance at the union contract for editorial employees we see that scribes with at least six years of experience take home a minimum of $1075.01 per week at the St. Paul daily, or $26.88 an hour. As a high-profile columnist Soucheray almost certainly is paid more than this--never mind that by his own calculations he labors for three and a half hours to produce his thrice-weekly column. So what if publisher Sadowski were to make his star columnist an hourly reporter, Off Beat mused. At $26.88 an hour we calculate his new weekly salary to be...$107.52 a week (out of the kindness of our hearts we threw in an extra half-hour for Sooch to use the facilities and chomp on cigars, bringing his total work week to four hours). This produces an astounding weekly savings of $967.49! With this extra booty, publisher Rick Sadowski can easily hire another reporter. And hey, we won't even charge for the financial advice.

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