BuzzFeed Cuts Staff Salaries, CEO Jonah Peretti to Forgo Pay During Coronavirus Crisis

BuzzFeed, hoping to forestall layoffs with an economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic already under way, is reducing the salaries of most employees. CEO Jonah Peretti said he won’t be taking any compensation until the crisis has passed.

Peretti announced the salary cuts at a BuzzFeed all-hands meeting Wednesday and provided additional details in a memo, which was obtained by Variety. The digital-media company’s staffers will see their pay reduced on a sliding scale of 5% to 25%, depending on how much they earn and senior execs getting the biggest percentage cuts.

“I understand this will be a real hardship for everyone, but our goal is to make it possible for all of us to get through this,” Peretti wrote in the memo. The CEO told employees he will “not be taking a salary until we are on the other side of this crisis.”

BuzzFeed’s salary cuts were previously reported by the Daily Beast. The company last year was struggling amid headwinds in the digital-advertising biz, and laid off 15% of its workforce in early 2019.

Peretti, in the memo Wednesday, said BuzzFeed was already seeing the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis in its own business. “We don’t know how long this will last but we want to move quickly to make sure our business remains sustainable and we will lift the program and reevaluate if things improve,” he wrote.

The salary cuts will be reflected starting with the April 15 pay period. For U.S. employees, the rate cuts are as follows based on annual salary tiers: $40,000-$64,999, 5%; $65,000-$89,999, 7%; $90,000-$124,999, 9%; $125,000-$169,9999, 11%; $170,000-$224,999, 12%; $225,000 and above, 13%.

The company’s most senior execs will see pay cuts of 14%-25%, per Peretti’s memo. Contractors and freelancers will see their rates docked 8%.

Peretti said BuzzFeed execs will meet with reps from the NewsGuild of New York, the union that represents BuzzFeed News workers, to “share this plan and invite them to participate in this or to propose a new plan that meets the same savings goal.”

In a statement, the BuzzFeed News Union said in part, “While this obviously isn’t ideal for anyone, we’re glad the company is taking a proactive approach and pursuing options to cut costs that don’t result in job losses.” The union said that in meeting with BuzzFeed execs about the proposed pay reductions, “we’re committed to working towards what’s best for our members and for BuzzFeed, including all of our colleagues across the company.”

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