The Seattle Times Co. said yesterday it plans to cut 90 to 110 full-time jobs in a move company officials said is aimed at returning The Times' Seattle paper to profitability within...
The Seattle Times Co. said yesterday it plans to cut 90 to 110 full-time jobs in a move company officials said is aimed at returning The Times’ Seattle paper to profitability within two years.
In a memo circulated to Times staff members, Carolyn Kelly, the company’s president and chief operating officer, said those employees affected by the staff reductions would be notified by mid-February.
In addition, Kelly said the company expects to cut an undisclosed number of part-time workers and that the job reduction does not include openings the company has frozen or will freeze for the next two years.
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The memo did not specify which jobs would be lost or how the cuts would be distributed across the company.
Kelly and other Times officials have said the company’s largest operating unit, The Seattle Times newspaper, lost $12 million last year and also showed a loss in 2003.
The overall Times Co., which includes eight newspapers in Washington and Maine, as well as a printing plant and other operations, also lost money in 2003 and 2004. Times officials decline to disclose the size of that loss.
The company has blamed the losses on long-term shifts in Seattle’s economy and on the Seattle paper’s continued participation in a joint-operating agreement (JOA) with The Hearst Corp., which owns the rival Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The Times Co. and Hearst have been battling for nearly two years over the JOA. Times officials say their Seattle paper has been hamstrung by the P-I’s dwindling circulation under the JOA.
In April 2002, Hearst sued in King County Superior Court to block The Times from forcing negotiations that could lead to an end of the JOA. Hearst said terminating the agreement will force the P-I to shut down.
Superior Court Judge Greg Canova ruled in Hearst’s favor on one core issue of the case, but a three-judge Appeals Court panel overturned his decision last March. The case is scheduled to be argued Feb. 15 before the state Supreme Court.
Under the JOA, the papers publish separately, but The Times prints, distributes and markets both papers. After being paid for the non-news operations, The Times gets 60 percent of the papers’ pooled revenue, while the P-I gets the rest.
Roger Oglesby, the P-I’s publisher, said yesterday that Hearst has no plans at present to lay off any of the paper’s 190 staff members. Oglesby declined comment on The Times’ plans.
Steve Miletich, a Times reporter and vice president of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents more than 700 employees at The Seattle Times, called the announcement “sobering.”
While the company has been telling its workers for several months it was planning job reductions, Miletich said the union was not given any specifics about the planning in advance.
Miletich said a committee of union officials plans to meet with Times officials today.
“There’s a lot of anxiety,” he said. “People want to know the specifics.”
Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin said the company currently has about 1,500 full-time employees. The company’s employment roll shrank by about 6 percent over the past three years, she said, and has fallen by 18 percent since a 49-day strike against The Times in late 2000 and early 2001.
Coughlin said the planned cuts will be permanent. “Those positions are going away,” she said.
The Times Co. also plans to cut 45 other jobs by shifting its customer-service operations to a subcontractor in Wisconsin and has reorganized its delivery and marketing operations to reduce jobs in those areas, she said.
But the job cuts will not fully offset the Seattle paper’s $12 million revenue shortfall, Coughlin said.
The company has no plans to expand its full-time job cuts beyond the 110 positions, she said, but would not rule out other cuts if revenue projections aren’t met.
“Our goal,” Coughlin said, “is to stop losing money and return to profitability by 2007.”
Bill Richards is a freelance writer hired on a special contract by The Seattle Times to cover events involving the joint-operating agreement with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He can be reached at email@example.com.