The president of ABC Inc. on Thursday called his company's decision to let go 350 of its 13,000 employees "a difficult business decision" that was made "to prepare the company for this year's uncertain economic environment" and to streamline it for the future.
Frederick S. Pierce's carefullyworded explanation, made in a prepared statement that ABC Inc. released in New York, apparently was prompted by reporters' queries about the layoffs. It came a day after pink slips went out to a number of ABC employees in what some of them in Los Angeles referred to as "Black Wednesday.
ABC, whose operations range from broadcasting to publishing, announced last month that between 300 and 350 employees would have to be let go as a cost-cutting measure, but has refused to be more specific than that.
In his prepared comments, Pierce, who made no mention of Capital Cities Communications' pending $3.5 billion takeover of ABC Inc., said that starting in the late 1970s, ABC had grown "beyond a size that could effectively be sustained over the long run.
"The reductions will streamline our organization and ultimately result in improved productivity and a significant cost reduction." Pierce did not say how much money would be saved by the company-wide personnel cutbacks.
ABC said that the cutback "was largely completed this week," and that "an additional reduction in staffing levels has been accomplished by eliminating approximately 250 unfilled jobs from the company payroll."
Neither Pierce nor the ABC statement addressed the question of whether more layoffs are planned, but ABC officials have insisted that no more large personnel cuts are in the works. This was reiterated Thursday by a spokeswoman in New York who denied a rumor that another mass layoff will be made before the end of the year.
No reliable estimates were available on how many ABC employees got the bad news Wednesday, either company-wide or at ABC's offices in Century City and at KABC-TV in Hollywood, one of five television stations ABC owns.
However, various sources within the company said that some non-union supervisors in broadcast and engineering departments got termination notices, as did some production staffers and eight pages working for ABC's guest relations department in Los Angeles.
One laid-off young employee, who asked not to be identified, said that in addition to severance pay, a bonus and accrued vacation pay, she also got a packet that others have sardonically dubbed "a departure kit."
She said it includes a book on how to write a resume and then interview for a job, and the name of an employment agency specializing in temporary work.