The deadline for employees who want to accept the voluntary buyouts at the Miami Herald comes today, according to sources. Then comes the "involuntary" buyouts. In either case, the deal amounts to little more than layoffs with small severance packages.
And in terms of package size, the Herald's is smaller than the Sentinel's. In its first round of buyouts last year, the Sentinel offered two weeks pay for every years worked with a maximum of a year's salary as severance. The Herald is doing the same thing, only its cap is 32 weeks instead of a year. The minimum, I'm told, is eight weeks pay. Better than nothing is basically what I'm hearing from Herald folks. It's possible, though, that the Sentinel's buyout package will shrink this time around (You can hear Zell now: "But the water was cold!").
Right now, the writing is on the wall for a lot of Herald staffers. These are the people who know that if nobody with more seniority takes the buyout, they're going to get the heave-ho. One right now in that situation is classical music writer Lawrence A. Johnson, who is one of two Herald critics likely to lose their jobs. Why? Because Johnson has been at the Herald only since November 2006. Unless longer-tenured critic decides to take the buyout, then Johnson is most likely gone.
I called Johnson but he didn't want to talk about it until the situation was resolved (though he did say he was a reader of the Pulp, news that elicited an apology from me). Not all may be lost. I've heard that some orchestras and classical music venues are rallying behind him, so we'll see how it goes.
What makes this worse is that the Herald hired him away from the Sentinel such a short time ago. It's possible that the Sentinel would have involved Johnson in its own substantial buyouts that are coming, but either way it's a rotten situation.