Honolulu Newspaper Unions Angry About (Lack Of) Severance Payments

All six unions representing employees at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser have filed grievances over severance pay, KITV reports.

A combined four hundred employees at both newspapers will be out of work when the papers merge in the next two weeks to become the Star-Advertiser.

But a spokesman for the Hawaii Newspaper Guild told KITV that neither the Advertiser’s former owner, Gannett Co. (GCI), or the new owner, Oahu Publications, has said whether the laid-off employees will receive severance payments.

Employees at both papers should receive one week of severance for every year of service, with five weeks minimum and 40 weeks max.

Part of the reason for the guild’s concern comes from a math problem: the guild’s calculated that Oahu Publications could owe between $12 and $14 million in severance payments, while Oahu’s own calculations put the number between $5 and $8 million.

“We’re left with the idea that maybe they don’t plan to pay it at all, and that’s why we’ve taken the legal route,” Wayne Cahill, administrative officer for the Hawaii Newspaper Guild, told KITV.

Dennis Francis, the Star-Bulletin’s publisher who will hold the same title for the combined Star-Advertiser, told KITV that he planned on paying severance after the grievance is resolved.

He also told the station that he planned on hiring just 24-34 reporters and editors for the new paper, just one third of the Advertiser’s newsroom of 120.

Job offers could begin as soon as this afternoon, Hawaii time.