That little tidbit comes from the desk of Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth, who today sent out a memo on early-retirement packages—a memo that Posties are right now digesting. Please note that the plan below is for top management people—that is, “exempt” staffers, or newsroom staffers at the Post who are not represented by the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild.
Full memo after the jump. We will be covering this story aggressively.
As you know, we announced on February 7 that, in light of the difficult business climate we face, we plan to offer Voluntary Retirement Incentive Programs (VRIPs) to help us reduce costs and gain efficiency as we restructure for the future. While business conditions have regrettably brought us again to this point, these VRIPs will allow us to offer eligible employees the opportunity to retire with enhanced benefits and, at the same time, provide us with an important opportunity to restructure our business and reduce our costs without losing focus on our first mission: to publish best-in-class journalism and compelling content for our customers — our readers. To make that possible, not every retirement-eligible employee will be included in the VRIPs. Although we would like to be able to offer the VRIPs to all who might be interested, they are being offered only in areas where positions do not need to be replaced or where we can otherwise achieve cost savings. While we expect to be able to achieve meaningful staff reductions through these VRIPs, I am sorry to say that we cannot rule out layoffs.
I need not tell you that our industry is undergoing a seismic shift as readers face an array of media choices and our traditional advertising and circulation bases decline. The good news is that the appetite for news is as robust as ever. Thanks to our presence on the Internet and the terrific site at washingtonpost.com, our Internet audience has exploded. We have more readers now, and more far flung readers, than we have ever had. And on-line revenues are growing. But, as you know, they are not yet growing fast enough to offset the declines we are seeing in print revenues. As we move forward, barring a dramatic turn around in the business conditions, our path is pretty straightforward: we will have to reduce our cost structure. This has not been and will not be easy. Going through VRIPs is, I know, distracting for everyone — the eligible and the ineligible — and I hope to move through this process as swiftly as we can. While we do that, we must not and will not lose focus on our first mission. These VRIPs will not solve everything. But they are one step in what must be on-going evolution as we reposition ourselves for the future.
Below are the specifics on the VRIP that we plan to offer exempt employees in the next few weeks. At the same time, we plan to offer a similar VRIP to certain Guild-covered employees. Post representatives will be discussing the proposed VRIP with the Guild over the next two weeks, consistent with the terms of the labor contract.
Eligibility: To participate, exempt employees must be at least age 50, and have at least 5 years of service under The Post’s retirement plans, as of December 31, 2008. They must be full-time, or part-time averaging at least 22.5 hours a week, and must be working in one of the departments or positions specifically listed in the VRIP.
Enhanced Retirement Benefits: The VRIP will offer significant enhancements to employees’ retirement benefits on a one-time basis. Eligible exempt employees who retire under the VRIP will receive:
A retirement incentive payment of up to two times the employee’s salary based on years of service.
An improved retirement formula and “Rule of 80” benefit. Eligible employees will have three possible pension enhancements and will receive the one that provides them the greatest pension benefit:
One enhancement is an improved early retirement offset factor, so that, for example, an employee can retire at age 60 with 100% of his/her normal retirement benefit.
Another possible enhancement is a “Rule of 80” benefit – meaning that an employee whose age plus service totals 80 (after adding five years) can retire with 100% of his/her normal retirement benefit without having it reduced by early retirement factors.
The third possible enhancement is to increase the employee’s pension calculation by 10% at retirement.
Retiree Medical Insurance and Increased Pension Supplements. Full-time employees retiring under this VRIP will be eligible to participate in our retiree medical plans. To assist with the costs of this insurance, we will increase the pre-65 supplement in the pension plan from $3,000 to $4,000 a year, and increase the Cash Pension Supplement from $200 to $225 per year of service (up to 30 years), for exempt employees who retire under this VRIP.
The decision to participate in these VRIPs will be voluntary. Eligible employees will have 45 days to consider the VRIPs and discuss them with their advisors, and will have seven days after they sign the required paperwork to change their minds. We plan to schedule retirement dates as early as practical, consistent with our operational needs, but no later than December 31, 2008.
We will distribute VRIP packages to eligible employees in the next few weeks, hopefully by the first of April, and will include personal fact sheets estimating each eligible employee’s benefits under the VRIP. We will also have representatives in the Benefits Department available to meet individually with employees to discuss their options.