Star-Ledger Stops Pension Contributions

March 24, 2009 ( - The publisher of the Newark Star-Ledger announced he is stopping contributions to the employee pension plan and requiring full-time workers to take a 10-day unpaid furlough in an effort to combat declining revenue.

Publisher George Arwady said the newspaper will try to cushion the financial blow to its staff by increasing the amount of money it contributes to employees’ 401(k) plans while it looks for ways to cut costs, the Star-Ledger reported. The company will stop contributing to the pension fund as of May 15, but as of May 16, the company will begin matching 100% of the first 2% employees contribute to their 401(k) plans and 50% of the next 4% employees contribute.

Under the current plan, the newspaper matches 50% of the first 4% of the salary employees put into their plan.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said furloughed workers may be eligible for up to $584 a week in unemployment benefits, though decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, according to the news report. Workers who choose to take their furloughs over five consecutive days are more likely to receive unemployment benefits than those who choose to spread their furlough days over several weeks or months, he added.

The 10-day furlough will affect all 530 full-time employees, including Arwady and the paper’s top editors. An additional 169 part-time workers will be affected by the changes to the pension plan.

Similar furloughs and pension changes were announced at other Newhouse-owned newspapers, including the Staten Island Advance, the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, the Oregonian in Portland and the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

The recession hit to the newspaper industry has led others to cut 401(k) matching contributions (see Indiana Newspaper Axes 401(k) Match ).