By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Management at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is looking to cut 24 employees from its newsroom through a buyout program set to begin Monday, according to internal documents obtained by the Pittsburgh Current.
The loss of jobs would mean a 20 percent reduction in editorial staff represented by the Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild. The guild has had a contentious relationship with management for years and have been working without a new contract for more than three years. They haven’t had a salary increase in 14 years. Union writers began a byline strike on November 20; publisher John Robinson Block went on an “unhinged” newsroom tirade last February and in July, the paper announced it would begin phasing out all print publications in favor of a digital product. However, things had seemed to settle down a bit during the COVID-19 crisis as a majority of guild workers have been working from home.
The buyout period begins Monday, May 18, and employees must make a decision on the severance package by July 3. Employees who choose to take the buyout would get one week’s pay for each year of service for up to 16 years and health insurance for three months, according to employees familiar with the negotiations.
The positions on the chopping block, identified by Editor Keith Burris, are:
- Content Providers: Local News: 2
- Content Providers: Business Writers: 2
- Content Providers: Features Writers: 5
- Content Providers: Editorial: 2
- Content Providers: Sports, 5
- Content Providers: Photographers, 4
- Content Providers: Digital, 2
- Content Editors: Copy Desk, 2
So far, there has been no indication of whether layoffs will occur if the 24 jobs aren’t slashed voluntarily. The announcement of layoffs does not constitute the formal 30-day warning, mandated by the current contract, that layoffs are a possibility. According to internal communications, the paper has never laid off guild employees in the past. In November, P-G management attempted to layoff or reduce hours of 70 Teamster-represented employees, but that effort was initially blocked by a federal judge. However, on March 25, a panel of three appellate judges from the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the decision. The editorial staff won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for its work covering the October 2018 Synagogue shooting and was a finalist for the prize this year.
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on June 10, 2020. While the Post-Gazette was originally barred from laying off or modifying the employment of 70 employees in November 2019, that ruling was overturned on appeal on March 25, 2020.