Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mandatory Furloughs Kick In

Gannett employees must take a week off without pay in the first quarter of 2009. The furlough requires that staffers have absolutely no contact with the workplace during their time off.

It's an odd thing in this day and age not to be linked to the job, even while on leave or vacation. Employees are used to checking e-mail and being accessible if questions come up at work while they are away. The day after I retired in 2003, a procrastinating editor kept me on the phone and computer for several hours to wrap up an enterprise story on municipal cell phone use, a story that had been in the works for months. It was so typical of the relationship that I just had to chuckle wryly when maybe I should have billed by the hour.

Now that Gannett has had two major job cuts in the past year, employees are becoming more hard-nosed about unpaid overtime. The glory of an A-1 byline is no longer its own reward. As the old Motown song goes, "Money (That's What I Want.)" The issue has become a staple topic on Gannett Blog. Still, in the current economic climate, staffers must weigh the importance of taking a stand against seeming exploitation against the need to stay employed.

The furlough plan's rules are so draconian that an employee who breaks them is subject to having the furlough canceled and rescheduled over any infraction. It's hard to imagine coming back to a week's worth of unread e-mail, press releases, news tips and phone messages. If your favorite writer suddenly seems to be out of reach, you can always try calling or e-mailing an editor.

P.S. My favorite version of "Money" is the one by the Flying Lizards.

--Bernice Paglia


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