Sun-Times aims to cut 22 percent of newsroom staff

Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times

Management of the Sun-Times is looking to cut its editorial staff by as much as 22 percent through a combination of buyouts and layoffs set to start on Wednesday.

Between 12 and 15 positions are expected to be eliminated out of a total of 68 employees covered by the newspaper’s contract with the Chicago Newspaper Guild, sources said. They’re the latest cutbacks in the paper’s ongoing struggle to survive despite continuing revenue losses and circulation declines.

Guild members voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the buyout offer negotiated by Sun-Times parent company Wrapports LCC and the union representing reporters, editors, columnists and other newsroom staffers. Reporter Art Golab, who chairs the Sun-Times unit of the Guild, confirmed the vote but declined to discuss details of the offer.

Other sources said all 68 Guild members are eligible for buyouts, which will provide up to 20 weeks of severance pay to the most experienced employees. Starting Wednesday, the offer will remain open for one week. If the company’s goals are not met through buyouts, layoffs will follow. Employees whose jobs are eliminated through layoffs typically receive eight to 13 weeks of severance pay.

Wednesday morning update: Wrapports released the following statement from Jim Kirk, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times: “We’re glad the Guild members have voted to approve the voluntary buyout program as we realign our newsroom staffing levels in the wake of our recent sale of our suburban titles to Tribune Publishing. We have been going through this process throughout the organization as we work to solidify the future of the iconic Chicago Sun-Times newspaper and deliver strong, local stories to our readers. In working with the Guild, we hope to avoid layoffs. Over the coming days we will talk to interested employees and plan to have the process wrapped up no later than Feb. 17."

A Wrapports spokesman said there are 72 Guild members by the company’s count.

The latest round of job cuts has been expected since Wrapports completed the sale of its 38 suburban newspapers to Tribune Publishing November 1. The move left Wrapports with only the Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader alternative weekly among its major holdings.