Furloughs Hit WNET

Everybody wants to take off the days between Christmas and New Years Eve. So long as you get paid for them.

Staff members at WNET.org are out of luck on the second count.

The Observer has learned that senior managers at the WNET.org, PBS’s flagship media provider in New York, which runs channel 13 and channel 21, told staff members yesterday that they would be required to take three days of unpaid leave at the end of the year.

A small group of engineers needed to keep shows on the air during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve will be momentarily exempted from the furlough. But they too will be asked to take three unpaid days off sometime next year.

The internal announcement was just the latest bit of bad news for WNET.org staffers in a year full of them. In January, we reported that due to severe fund-raising and budget problems, WNET.org was reducing its 500 person staff by roughly 85 positions. And last month, The Observer reported that WNET.org executives, in another cost-reducing measure, were looking to move out of their longtime headquarters at 450 West 33rd Street.

How much will the furloughs save president Neal Shapiro‘s cash-strapped organization?

When contacted on Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for WNET.org said she had no estimate readily available. “It’s going to save the company a significant amount of money in staff time and energy,” said the spokesperson. “We’re going to basically shut the place down.”

According to the spokesperson, senior staff members, including the company’s vice presidents, volunteered to take a slightly larger hit than the rest of the staff. Their furlough will be for five days.

“This is a way for the company to save money with the least amount of pain for the staff,” said the WNET.org spokesperson.

  Furloughs Hit WNET