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Bills staff takes a hit in lockout

The Buffalo Bills plan no layoffs or furloughs as a result of the NFL work stoppage. However, the organization has imposed pay cuts for the administrative employees at One Bills Drive.

The salaries of all employees are being reduced on a percentage basis, up to 25 percent, according to team sources.

Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon said no one is losing a job due to the lockout, and he acknowledged the pay cuts in a statement to The News.

Said Brandon: "We have made prudent preparations for the possibility of a work stoppage. We have, for some time, been very upfront and transparent with our staff so that they too could make prudent preparations.

"We have built a program that focuses on shared sacrifice," Brandon said. "Every employee in the organization will be affected. As you move up the organization chart, the sacrifice increases in absolute and percentage terms, as it should. We plan no layoffs as a result of the situation at this time. Our hope is that our advanced planning will allow us to avoid them in the future as well."

If the lockout stretches into September and causes the cancellation of all or some games, it's expected the Bills will reassess their stance on layoffs.

The Bills began meeting with employees in November to discuss the possible effects of a lockout.

Bills coaches have it in their contracts that they would get withheld salary returned to them if no games are lost, sources said.

The opening weekend of the NFL regular season still is 26 weeks away. The first Sunday of regular-season games would be Sept. 11.

Numerous NFL teams have announced they plan no immediate layoffs in the wake of the lockout. Pay reductions have varied by team. Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota are among the teams that announced no immediate pay reductions for employees. Reports indicate salary withholding for coaches would hit 40 percent in San Francisco if the lockout extends to August and 50 percent in Oakland if it lasts to September. Among the other teams making pay reductions similar to those of the Bills, based on media reports, include Kansas City, San Diego, Cincinnati, Arizona and the New York Jets. However, if the lockout lasts more than 90 days, pay for Jets coaches can be cut by 50 percent, numerous New York media have reported.

The Jets also are requiring 96 non-contract business-side employees to take one week of unpaid furlough in each month without a new labor deal. The Jets' commissioned sales staff is bigger than that of many other teams.

Payments into pension plans around the league also are affected.

The Bills are one of 12 teams that over the past two years have opted out of the NFL pension plan. In 2009, NFL owners voted to allow teams to opt out of the league-wide plan.

"The Bills are an interesting deal because they opted out of the pension," said Larry Kennan, staff director for the NFL Coaches Association, an advocacy group for the league's coaches. "But they put another pension in place that was really good. There are two other teams that put pensions in place, and [Buffalo's] was probably the best of the three. Because of the lockout, they have suspended the pension."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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