Archive for the ‘Employee benefits’ Category

Documents show few Jennings scholarships; Gannett Foundation gave $159,250 in four years

December 14, 2008

[Income tax return shows the Gannett Foundation awarded
$42,250 in Madelyn P. Jennings scholarships in 2007]

Hard to believe, isn’t it? The Gannett Foundation apparently gave only $42,250 in college scholarships to employees’ children in 2007 — a year when the company employed 46,000 workers, according to public documents. That would be just 14 Madelyn P. Jennings Scholarships, based on the contest’s current $3,000 award value.

Those numbers appeared so low that I dived back into the foundation’s four most recent public income tax returns to learn more. But it turns out that 2007 wasn’t an anomally, if these reported annual totals are accurate:

  • 2004: $39,000
  • 2005: $39,000
  • 2006: $39,000
  • 2007: $42,250

That’s $159,250. For fall 2010, each scholarship is a one-time award of $3,000, sent to the winner’s college as a single payment. (Application instructions.)

Now, there are several reasons why these figures might be so low — but lack of money shouldn’t be one. In 2007 alone, the foundation donated $11.3 million to non-profits across the country. That included $320,000 in grants that CEO Craig Dubow and 15 other current and former executives steered toward scholarship funds at their alma maters, and to other pet charities, under a perquisite available to only the well-paid top brass. (Noteworthy examples.)

Of course, average employees aren’t so fortunate, according to foundation rules for everyone else: “The only scholarship program currently funded by the foundation is the Madelyn P. Jennings Scholarship Program for children of Gannett employees.”

Possible explanations
I can only imagine what foundation Executive Director Tara Connell would say about this, given that she’s not talking to me. (Indeed, I’m still waiting for Connell, who also is Gannett’s spokeswoman, to explain the whereabouts of $40,000 in other foundation money.)

Maybe there’s a pile of other Jennings scholarships disclosed somewhere else; I could only find one page summarizing the grants in the tax returns. Perhaps the scholarships aren’t getting promoted enough. Maybe the qualifications are too tough, or the application process too daunting. (Basically, college-bound high school seniors must score well on the PSAT/NMSQT test, plus meet other criteria.)

Whatever the reasons, Gannett Blog readers want to know more. “Where is that list of award winners?” Anonymous@4:35 p.m. asked yesterday. “We applied when my daughter was a junior, too. I was dismayed when we didn’t hear a single thing back — not even a, ‘tnx for applying’ note.”

How to apply for 2010 scholarships
Deadline for fall 2010 college enrollment is Feb. 28, 2009, for high school students who took the standardized PSAT/NMSQT test this fall. (Details, here.)

Got a Jennings experience to share? Post it in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar.

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Ohio law firm launches site devoted to GCI layoffs

December 9, 2008

(Updated.) Minnillo & Jenkins of Cincinnati almost certainly started the website — GannettLayoffs.com — to gather new clients. Although the firm says it specializes in personal bankruptcies, the new site highlights the rights of laid-off employees under state and federal law.

“Signing a release, separation agreement, severance agreement or similar document may waive these rights and bar you from enforcing your legal rights, so it is important to understand the rights you may be waiving,” the firm says on GannettLayoffs.com.

Minnillo & Jenkins is at least the second law firm that has shown particular interest in Gannett and labor law, including possible violations of wage and hour regulations. Note: I’m not endorsing either firms’ work.

Attorney: Cincy laid off my wife
After this post went up, several readers accused me of promoting a law firm trying to make money off the misery of Gannett employees. Now, an attorney at the firm, Erik Laursen, has jumped in.

“My wife was just laid off by The Cincinnati Enquirer,” he writes, in a comment. “I also worked as a journalist before becoming a lawyer. As my wife asked me questions about her severance, I thought that she can’t be the only person with questions. This is why, after careful consideration, we chose to focus some of our efforts toward Gannett employees.”

Ethics 101 — Commercial interests
There’s an interesting debate in this post’s comments section, over the ethics of my posting anything about law firms soliciting business from unhappy current and former employees. Join in; you’ll be glad you did!

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Calling H.R. pros: Volunteers vs. jobless benefits?

November 5, 2008

As Gannett offers buyouts to as many as 30,000 newspaper employees, one N.Y. worker asks: “I want to know, as many others do, if you volunteer for severance, will you be eligible for unemployment?”

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Bait to switch: Insurer dangles iPod to win business

November 4, 2008

As employees consider medical coverage choices during the annual open enrollment period, UnitedHealthcare’s Consumer Driven Health Plan is trying to tempt you with a chance to win an iPod nano. “Watch an important CDHP video from UnitedHealthcare to be eligible to win an Apple 8GB iPod® nano,” says an e-mail posted by a reader. “Two people will win a nano every business day from Monday, Nov. 3, to Friday, Nov. 21, 2008.”

[Photo: the music player starts at $149, Apple]

Blind item: Why this exec doesn’t change diapers

November 4, 2008

We know former CEO Doug McCorkindale doesn’t pay a dime for health insurance — one of the many perks he and his family enjoy under the retired executive’s gold-plated retirement contract.

Now, as CEO Craig Dubow feels your pain, which other ex-executive gets a nanny, housekeeper and other domestic help paid by GCI under his equally princely retirement package?

(What’s a blind item?)

[Image: The Nanny Diaries, the very entertaining 2002 novel]

Calling all SEC experts; this one’s got me stumped

November 1, 2008

Why is the Gannett 401(k) Savings Plan registering 25 million shares of common stock with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission?

Employee health premiums said rising up to 8%

October 29, 2008

The much-anticipated news about next year’s medical benefit costs is now rolling out, says a reader, who posted a note that Gannett apparently started sending to employees recently.

Among the highlights: “Our most widely-subscribed plan, the PPO, will increase 5% for single coverage and 8% for family coverage.”

Please post your reactions in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Employee health premiums said rising up to 8%

October 29, 2008

The much-anticipated news about next year’s medical benefit costs is now rolling out, says a reader, who posted a note that Gannett apparently started sending to employees recently.

Among the highlights: “Our most widely-subscribed plan, the PPO, will increase 5% for single coverage and 8% for family coverage.”

Please post your reactions in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Health care: Get ready for more out-of-pocket fees

October 9, 2008

(Updated post.) Any moment now, you’ll be getting that dreaded big envelope from Gannett, telling you how much more medical benefits will cost next year compared to 2008, as late fall is traditionally annual open-enrollment season. Health-care premiums are expected to rise 7.8% for 2008, according to a recent projection by Hewitt Associates, cited in today’s Wall Street Journal. That would come after double-digit percentage increases in previous years.

But employees’ charges for such items as deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses are forecast to jump 10.1% from this year, to about $1,900, the WSJ story (paid subscription generally required) says. No matter what Gannett’s increases are this year, they’ll nip at pay increases for many employees, given raises stuck in the 1% to 2% range.

On a percentage basis, how much more do you expect your total medical expenses — premiums plus out-of-pocket fees — to increase next year compared to this year? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Chatter: Overtime pay, and USAT layoff angst

October 9, 2008

An occasional peek at what you’ve been chattering about over the past 24 hours. Latest: Should employees likely to lose their jobs now seek overtime pay Gannett wrongfully denied them in the past? Also: A USA Today employee seeks advance word on possible layoffs.

Anonymous@10:18 p.m. said: “I’m not a lawyer, but I’d guess that if you wrote on your time sheet that you worked 40 hours/week, even though you really worked more than that, you wouldn’t have a case. Did a manager ever explicitly tell you to lie on your time sheet?”

@10:23 p.m. quickly replied: “Indirectly, by saying that all OT needed to be approved in advance.”

And @8:41 a.m. said today about GCI’s North Carolina newspaper: “I worked overtime for six years at a Gannett paper in Asheville, and never got paid for it. At least an hour and a half, give or take, everyday. I was told I could not write it down on any time cards and could only put the hours I was hired to work: 37.5. Yes, I worked over 40 hours every week. The funny thing was when I turned in my two week notice, they insisted on paying me for the overtime I worked the second to last week. And the last week they would not let me turn on my computer to begin work until 8am even though I came in at 7 a.m. Looks like someone trying to avoid a lawsuit.”

On speculation that USA Today may raise its cover price 33%, to $1, @9:14 a.m. wrote today: “Does anyone have any info on the possibility of more USAT buyouts or layoffs by the end of the year? With the price of the paper possibly going up, the X-mas party nixed for the first time ever, and the economy crashing, it seems likely that more cuts are coming. I can accept the harsh reality of cuts, but I can’t accept the lack of fair warning. I wish the suits would give us a heads-up, even if just in general terms.”

Join the debate — or start a new one, in Real Time Comments.

[Image: today’s USAT front page, Newseum]