ProJo management wants to cut $1.2 million

Providence Journal management wants to cut $1.2 million in costs, which could mean up to 16 layoffs from Rhode Island's paper of record.

John Hill, a reporter who serves as president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, says the paper has indicated that it would be willing to accept concessions from union workers in lieu of layoffs. Talks on any deal, he says, will begin "very soon."

The union has conducted a survey of union members, who have not had a raise since 2008 and are paying more out-of-pocket for health care coverage than they once did, to determine what kind of concessions they might be willing to make. He declined to discuss the results of that survey, but said the poll will guide the union's negotiations with management.

If the two sides can't strike a deal hitting the full $1.2 million target, management would likely lay off enough employees to reach that number.

The Journal has told the guild that the average union member - newsroom and advertising staff - costs the paper about $75,000 per year.

It's unclear, at this point, how the paper would divvy up layoffs between advertising staff and an increasingly thin newsroom. But layoffs, per the union contract, would happen by seniority - meaning a graying newsroom could lose some of its remaining young talent.

The paper offered union members a buyout several weeks ago, but did not indicate how many employees it hoped would go. In the end, 11 employees took the buyout. The union waited until today to learn how much, in additional cuts, the paper wanted.

Hill said he hadn't thought much about what the number might be in recent days. But he said the figure - $1.2 million - hit hard. "It's a big number," he said.

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