Gannett's squeeze

Dateline: Thu 12 Jun 2008

Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute broke the news Wednesday that those inside the Gannett empire knew: pensions are being frozen.

Here's the juice from CEO Craig Dubow:

"It (pension plan) will not continue to grow (based on your years of service and final pay) as it did in the past."

The company is putting the screws to older employees, hoping to force more out the door as it continues to downshift. Meanwhile, those at the top continue to make out like bandits. Gannett Blog reports that 120 execs are exempt from the changes.

Gannett Blog's Jim Hopkins also disclosed the particulars of his own retirement: he was making $105,000 at USA Today as an editor and reporter, he says, and he took a buyout in January, after working 20 years for the The other side of the coin is that the company is "improving the 401(k). The new match for the Gannett 401(k), beginning Aug. 1, will be:

- Gannett contributes $1 in Gannett stock for every $1 you contribute

(up to 5% of your pay)."

G-men. At the time he left, his pension was growing at a rate of about $9,000 a year. Under the new plan, he writes, he would be losing about $7,000 a year. (Hopkins cashed out of the pension plan when he left the paper; his lump sum was about $105,000, which he invested).

For those still at Gannett holding on to that thin sliver of hope in the form of the measley pension, here's my situation. I worked at the Star since 1978, part-time, and went full-time in the mid to late 1980s.

When I left, my salary was about $60,000. I was supposedly at the top of the pay scale, although please don't tell six-figures Bob Kravitz that. So all my good reviews resulted in pats on the back, not pay hikes. Fortunately, I loved my job.

I retired in 2006 -- honestly, it wasn't the work or the bosses, it was that grandchildren were calling. My pension benefit is $921.57 a month. From that, the company extracts $431 for my Blue Cross Blue Shield medical plan. That figure has continued to climb and will do so in the future. My takeout net pay is therefore $490.57 a month.

But before the whining commences, a friend in HR has pointed out that pensions are so yesterday; very few employees have them. They sort of went the way of outsourcing in the 1990s -- goodbye to all that.

So are we grateful, or what? No. We just want the names of those 120 top execs who faced no cuts in these lean times.


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