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'Irish Times seeking €2m in cost savings

THE 'IRISH Times' newspaper is seeking to reduce staff costs by the equivalent of up to 30 people as it continues to struggle in the economic downturn.

At a meeting with staff yesterday, management said the newspaper needed to reduce costs by some €2m, equating to a reduction in staff of between 20 and 30 people. The paper currently employs 420.

The savings are to be achieved through an early retirement and voluntary redundancy scheme, job sharing, career breaks, and a reduction of expenses arrangements.

The redundancy package will be a new scheme and is not expected to match the terms offered in previous redundancy schemes. It will be negotiated with unions, as will the changes to expenses policy.

The last redundancy package offered was six weeks for every year of service plus statutory redundancy, capped at €250,000.

The mood among staff after the meeting was described as "very grim" and the tone of the session was said to be "much worse than expected". The company was "not profitable" during 2010, the third straight year the business recorded a loss.

Managing director Liam Kavanagh described the measures as "relatively modest" and emphasised they were being carried out on an "all voluntary" basis.

"We do need the savings and at some level this has been a response to demand from staff. There have been requests for job sharing and leave of absence and given the staff age profile -- there are a number of staff heading to retirement in the next five years -- we feel this is a prudent course to be taking."

Like many media outlets, the 'Irish Times' has struggled with the online world, and despite a strong uptake in the paper's various web offerings, Mr Kavanagh said revenue was still not enough to match the advertising losses.

The 'Irish Times' has been mired in difficulties since previous MD Maeve Donovan implemented the now infamous investment and diversification strategy, which saw the company buy the property website MyHome.ie for €50m at the height of the property boom.

Irish Independent