Early retirement helps FT fund 'big moment'

The Financial Times has introduced a voluntary early-retirement scheme for journalists aged 58 and above to help it shed jobs in the current economic downturn.

Editor Andrew Gowers, facing an early crisis in his editorship – he took over only last month – told Press Gazette: "We have no plans to make anybody redundant." Together with FT.com journalists, the FT’s editorial staff totals 580. Gowers said the estimate for the reduction in numbers would be "in the low double digits".

Some journalists had been calling for the retirement scheme for some time, he said. It offers four weeks salary for each year of employment up to a "generous maximum".

"We are having to manage our costs carefully and to reduce the head count somewhat but we will be able to do it entirely by voluntary means."

Gowers has no plans, either, to cut casual shifts: "We have been managing our costs pretty prudently over quite a time since the downturn first struck, so there has been quite a lot of reduction in those areas.

"Overall, the head count has come down already in 2001. We do have a recruitment freeze and that will continue," he said. A lot of cuts in budgets have also already been made at 1, Southwark Bridge.

"At all levels of this company, we are in the middle of a major international crisis which is a major FT story," Gowers explained. "We have the resources to do that to an excellent standard and we will continue to do that right around the world.

"It is quintessentially an FT story because it is political, economic, financial and has business ramifications of all kinds." He was not despondent about the cuts, he said, adding: "There are scenarios I would have found less welcome but this one is compatible with our continuing needs.

"It is something for which there are volunteers and it is a fair way of treating people. In that sense I am comfortable with the scheme and I’m also comfortable with the fact that we are brilliantly placed to cover the current stories in a superlative way.

"Without wishing to sound euphoric about world events which are horrific, I think this is the FT’s big moment, in print and online, because it is such a global story and we are a global newspaper that can do it better than anyone." Gowers was echoing a theme pursued by Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York on 2 October.

It was the mission of the FT to give an international perspective to Americans and those reading it in English in their foreign markets, she said, adding: "Whether it is a fast-track trade debate or a relationship with China or the global airline industry, that is really what we do best. And it is tailor-made for us right now."

By Jean Morgan

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