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DUJ, NAJ Condemn Sackings, Pay Cuts by Media Owners Right Under PM’s Nose

At a time when journalists are risking their lives to cover the deadly pandemic, this ‘reprehensible’ act will destroy their morale, said the two organisations.
DUJ, NAJ Condemn Sackings

File Photo.

New Delhi: Even as the Prime Minister has appealed to employers to protect jobs at this hour of health and economic crisis in the country, media owners are sacking staff and imposing wage cuts right under his nose. And these are not small players, but among those with deep pockets.

On Monday, there were reports that Times of India, News Nation and The Quint had laid off employees, while Indian Express and Business Standard have reportedly gone for pay cuts while saving jobs.
Questioning the timing of this axing of jobs at a time of deep economic distress, the National Alliance of Journalists(NAJ) and  Delhi Union of Journalists(DUJ) has expressed shock.

“Media owners are claiming that they are severely affected by the lockdown, that circulations and advertising have fallen and therefore they are resorting to these measures. We believe that the lockdown is an excuse for retrenchment and arbitrary pay cuts. The Corona attack is a national crisis and the pain of dealing with this crisis must be accepted by media companies and their shareholders, not passed on to vulnerable employees,” said a press statement issued by the two organisations.

 “It is reprehensible that the richest media company, the Times of India group, should resort to firing employees although it can well afford to keep them on the payroll.  Employee costs are a small percentage of the huge profits the company makes. Those sacked now include people who have dutifully worked for them for over two decades, contributing to the growth and wealth of the company,” they said.

On Monday, journalist Nona Walia, who has worked with the Times of India for over two decades, said in her Facebook post: "The entire team of Sunday magazine of Times of India asked to leave. Got a call from my boss Poonam Singh. Sacked after 24 years from a company I served with love for more than two decades. Wow."

This, coming at a time when there are no jobs available in the market, has been termed as one of the ‘cruellest’ moves by these employers by many from the fraternity.

According to DUJ and NAJ, “the Indian Express group has enforced pay cuts ranging from ten to thirty percent. The Quint has sent almost half its staff on leave without pay besides enforcing pay cuts for the rest. Reports are also coming in from the states of the closure of print editions of several dailies.”

The two organisations said if the newspaper industry is “losing money every day” as the Indian Newspaper Society has written to the Union Government, “it should reconsider its policy of deliberately depressing newspaper prices and depending wholly on advertisement revenues. It now wants a government handout in the form of removal of 5% customs duty on newsprint, a two-year tax holiday, a 50% increase in DAVP advertisement rates and a 100% increase in budget spend for print media. But what largesse is it giving employees?”

The statement said earlier, too, the media industry had “misused the demonetisation decision to enforce mass retrenchments. Today some media companies are threatening to turn the lockdown into a lockout.”

Demanding that media organisations pay heed to the PM’s appeal and restore jobs and salaries to employees, the statement pointed out how hundreds of journalists across the country were currently risking their lives and persons to report news about the spread of the virus and the impact of the lockdown.

“Some employees at the Times TV studio in Mumbai have reportedly contracted the virus and their colleagues have been shifted to a different location to carry on their work. Journalists today are frontline warriors and deserve support in doing their jobs. Instead, sudden pay cuts and sackings are destroying the morale of media persons today”, the statement read.

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