Yesterday, multiple sources confirm, managers at the Denver Post and the Denver Newspaper Agency learned that their pensions would be frozen beginning on January 1.
Tracy Simmons of the Denver Newspaper Guild stresses that the freeze will only affect so-called exempt positions at the Post and the DNA -- meaning employees not covered by a Guild contract. (Since the finalization of the joint-operating agreement linking the Post and the Rocky Mountain News, the Guild has had separate pacts with both papers and the DNA.) Moreover, Guild members at the Post are under contract until March 2010, so they won't have to worry about something similar being implemented for more than a year. Still, this move suggests that the topic will be on the table once negotiations for renewal begin. "Pensions are always an item that we talk about," Simmons says. "It would be extraordinary if they didn't want to talk about pensions."
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In most cases, a hard freeze means that an employee's pension will be based on service completed prior to the change. For example, if a hard freeze was instituted halfway through the career of a staffer who retired following twenty years on the job, that individual would receive a pension based on working for only ten years. In addition, people hired during such a freeze tend to receive no pension benefits -- although, of course, alterations can be made after the fact to bridge gaps, etc.
At this writing, calls have been placed to Jody Lodovic, president of MediaNews Group, the owner of the Post, as well as Post managing editor Gary Clark. This blog will be updated after one or both reply. As for Simmons, she says, "We're glad we have a contract." However, she adds, "we think everybody should have a pension."-- Michael Roberts
Update, November 14, 11:35 a.m.: Moments ago, I received a call from Post managing editor Gary Clark in response to my inquiry on this topic. He referred me to Post editor Greg Moore, who said through an intermediary that the person who could give me more information was Charlie Kamen, vice president of human resources for MediaNews Group, who conducted a meeting yesterday about the pension freeze. However, Kamen's secretary said that her boss had no comment. His transparency does the journalism industry proud. -- MR