Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sarasota Update: Halifax Backs Off

Here, courtesy of various correspondents, is an update on the Sarasota Herald Tribune situation that was the subject of a recent Pianist post:

Following a 45-minute meeting between Michael Redding, chief executive officer of Halifax Media Group, and Sarasota Herald Tribune staffers, publisher Diane McFarlin announced that the controversial non-compete clause in new employment agreements would be scrapped.

From: McFarlin, Diane
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 6:04 PM
To: !STHQ-Sarasota Users
Subject: good news


Michael Redding has decided to waive the non-compete clause and the family relationship policies for all existing employees. In other words, you have been “grandfathered in.” This means you do not have to sign the non-compete agreement and, if you are working in the same department as a spouse, sibling or other immediate family member, you can continue to do so.

I am sure there will be more information forthcoming, but I wanted you to receive this news immediately.

It should be noted that these policies will apply for all new hires going forward.

Thanks to all of you who participated in today’s town hall. Clearly, Michael heard your concerns and considered them carefully.


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Redding met with the Sarasota staff for 45 minutes and plans to visit the three other Florida papers now owned by Halifax tomorrow.  The first question he took up, as relayed to him by Publisher McFarlin:  What about the non-compete clause?

"We want to pour money into your career," Redding said, "and as you get better, what we are not interested in is you becoming our competition.  We want you to have long careers . . . and I'm sure many of you have been here 10, 20 years.  It isn't that you don't trust us, that isn't it at all.  To the point that someone who is here now, and let's say in the next 30 days or the next 60 day you sign the non-compete and then for some reason your job isn't here, the last thing we're going to do is tell you that you can't go get a job here.  We're going to rescind that non-compete.  That's just not fair, that's not how I would do it, that's not how we think."

Half an hour later, clarification was sought that the contract would be waived for the first 60 days (Halifax is also installing a 60-day probation period for all employees).  "We have agreed with the [New York] Times that anyone no longer with the company within a certain period of time that they will receive a severance package paid in the same manner as the folks that we didn't hire at close.  So that piece is there.  The second part is, as we are evaluating this, we're getting questions and we want to be responsive to those questions.  We want to re-evaluate if 60 days is the right number, maybe it is 90 days, maybe it is 120 days.  We're looking at that.  We want to make sure that you have confidence in what you are signing.  This is not a grab people, pin them to the ground and take advantage of them -- that's not the purpose of this document.  I'm looking for feedback . . ."

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OK. FEEDBACK: Odd, isn't it, how a bit of light in a dark corner causes creatures of the night to scurry?

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