Al Jazeera America Begins Painful Process of Layoffs

By Mark Joyella 

Winding down an entire cable news network takes time–and plenty of paperwork. When Al Jazeera America announced earlier this month it would end operations in April, hundreds of employees learned they would be losing their jobs.

AJAM chief executive Al Anstey said at the time his priority would be “conducting this process in a way that is consistent with (AJAM’s) respect for colleagues,” whom Anstey described as “some of the most talented people any organization could wish for.”

The mechanics of laying off a workforce estimated at around 700 people across twelve U.S. bureaus includes government-mandated reports that must be give at least 60 days notice of layoffs. The first of those reports was filed in New York State the day of AJAM’s January announcement on January 13, giving 90 days notice.

The New York Department of Labor filing discloses that 197 employees will be laid off, beginning as early as April 13. In the filing, Al Jazeera lists the reason for the layoffs as a “plant closing.”

Similar filings will be made in other states, ensuring that AJAM employees get assistance in finding new jobs. In California, the official filing–known as a WARN notice, for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification–triggers the involvement of a local “Rapid Response team” to work with employees on finding jobs or, for some, skills training for new careers.

In addition to government help, sources have described severance packages being offered by the network as “generous.”

Al Jazeera America debuted in 2013 with a workforce of nearly 900 in the U.S., but that number had dropped to around 800 less than a year later when AJAM announced a round of layoffs.