The US news agency the Associated Press (AP) laid off dozens of employees on Tuesday as part of a plan to reduce its global payroll by 10 percent this year, a union statement said.

The News Media Guild, which covers some 1,300 AP editorial and technology unit staffers in the United States, said it did not have an exact number of layoffs because management had not yet formally notified it of the move.

The Guild said it had been informed by members of more than 38 layoffs affecting Guild-covered managers, reporters, editors, photographers, and editorial assistants.

It said 20 jobs were cut at AP headquarters in New York and eight jobs in Puerto Rico. The Guild said it did not know how many managerial or non-US employees were let go.

"This is a very sad day for our AP colleagues and the public who relies on their important news work," said News Media Guild president Tony Winton.

AP spokesman Paul Colford declined to comment on the reports of layoffs but noted that AP president and chief executive Tom Curley outlined plans a year ago to cut payroll costs.

"We remain committed toward our goal of reducing the AP's global payroll cost by 10 percent in 2009," Colford told AFP.

A hiring freeze has been in place at the AP and about 100 employees accepted a voluntary early retirement package earlier this year.

The Guild said the layoffs were the largest since 2006 when 100 technology workers were let go.

The AP, a cooperative which is owned by 1,500 daily US newspapers, employs around 4,000 people, including 3,000 editorial staff.

As US newspapers grapple with declining circulation, a loss of readership to free online media, and a steep drop in print advertising revenue the AP has been under pressure from some of its members to cut its rates.

The AP offered 30 million dollars in rate reductions to member newspapers in 2009 and plans 35 million dollars in rate reductions in 2010.

The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers owned by the Tribune Co. cut back on use of the AP for a week this month to test whether they can do without content from the US news agency.

The Tribune Co. has been looking for ways to cut costs and in October 2008 it gave the AP the required two-year notice that it might drop the service.