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Around 50 employees at the News-Leader are affected by layoffs and furloughs.
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Around 50 employees at the News-Leader are affected by layoffs and furloughs.

Layoffs, furloughs impact News-Leader

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Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI) enacted layoffs and furloughs at the Springfield News-Leader, but they're not all related to the coronavirus pandemic.

News-Leader Editor Amos Bridges said 41 employees, including pressmen and staff in the mail room, were laid off due to the closure of the daily newspaper's printing press on Boonville Avenue. The local printing press conducted its final run on March 29, following Gannett announcing plans in February to move printing to Columbia, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the pandemic has resulted in temporary furloughs during the second quarter, Bridges said.

Newsroom employees who make at least $38,000 annually are required to take one week of unpaid furlough in April, May and June, he said. Bridges said the furloughs, announced yesterday by Gannett, impact about half of the 17-employee news staff, including himself. The Washington Post reports Gannett has plans for furloughs at more than 100 newspapers over the next three months.

"Having seen the layoffs and pay cuts that are occurring at other publications, I was expecting something, and was glad to see Gannett handle it in a way that preserves jobs and avoids harming our staff with lower salaries," Bridges said via email. "We've dealt with furloughs before, and I expect we'll handle these without too much disruption and discomfort."

Katie Kull, a News-Leader reporter and spokesperson for the Springfield News Guild representing 13 newsroom staff members, provided a statement on behalf of the union regarding the furloughs.

“During one of the biggest news events in recent history, Gannett has chosen to require more than half of our bargaining unit to take furloughs of one week per month during April, May and June. Our representatives will be speaking with the company to negotiate these terms, but we are disappointed and dismayed that this action would be taken at a time when local journalism is most critical," the statement reads. "We know times are tough in this industry, as they are in many industries across the country right now.

"But we also know that communities need robust local coverage to stay informed and weather this storm together."

The News-Leader's editorial staff unanimously voted Jan. 31 to establish the union. Local newsroom management, including Bridges, is not part of the guild.

The unionization talks began after last year's $1.1 billion takeover of Gannett Co. Inc. by GateHouse Media Inc. Gannett, which was the surviving company name through the merger deal, owns the News-Leader, USA Today and around 260 other daily papers.

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