टाइम्स आफ इंडिया वालों ने नवभारत टाइम्स में मजीठिया वेज बोर्ड के खिलाफ खुद के विचारों का प्रकाशन किया. इसको लेकर मीडिया जगत में तरह-तरह की प्रतिक्रिया है. दिल्ली यूनियन आफ जर्नलिस्ट्स, दिल्ली की तरफ से एक जवाब तैयार किया गया है, जिसे नीचे प्रकाशित किया जा रहा है
DUJ reply to TOI — wage board
A Poor Loser Cries Foul
The Delhi Union of Journalists and its Delhi Press Unity Centre condemns the campaign started by the Times of India group against the Supreme Court judgement of February 7, 2014. The Court has squarely rejected the various pleas of several companies owning leading national dailies and news agencies that had challenged the Justice Majithia Wage Board Award. The companies had even challenged the Working Journalists Act itself, in their attempt to deny journalists and other newspaper employees their due wages.
In a joint statement today, the DUJ President Sujata Madhok and Delhi Press Unity Centre Secretary Rajkumar said; “It is a singular irony that the Bennett Coleman & Co, the biggest newspaper group with enormous revenues at its command, refuses to pay employees the wages recommended by a tripartite Wage Board which included representatives of the newspaper industry. The newspaper owners, despite being party to the Wage Board and its 2011 Award, challenged that award in court, thus further stalling revision of pay for over two years”.
The last wage revision in the industry took place more than a decade back . The implementation of the Supreme Court judgement will provide great relief to hundreds of newspaper employees all over the country.
The Times of India/Bennett Coleman group is misusing the pages of its dailies to conduct a propaganda war against the ruling of the Supreme Court. In the past too the dailies have waged this war against newspaper and news agency industry unions by misusing their columns while denying us any right of reply. We, newspaper and news agency journalists and other employees have no right to freedom of the press! Our voices are banned from their publications.
The Times of India has on Feb 8, 2014 published a quarter page critique of the Supreme Court judgement as well as the Wage Award using various spurious arguments. Firstly, they argue that the Working Journalists Act is “an antiquated piece of legislation that has lost all social relevance in the modern age” and that other media are not “shackled” by such legislation.
In fact the Working Journalists Act, far from being irrelevant, is an enabling legislation that enables the industry to establish basic standards of employment and protects journalists from exploitation by laying down working conditions such as hours of work including night shifts, earned leave, maternity leave, payment of wages and gratuity etc. These are core labour standards and the legislation needs to be extended to other forms of media such as TV, radio and internet media. At present those employed in these media remain largely unprotected by labour legislation.
The “Times View” is that in today’s India wages should be decided by a “free and fair labour market” based on “supply and demand” rather than on the capacity of the industry to pay. This free market logic will only ensure that the organized sector becomes disorganized. The newspaper industry is increasingly corporatized (several companies are now on the stock market) and employs ever growing layers of highly paid top management. Yet it wants to push all other employees into the unorganised sector where they are a ‘flexible’ workforce employed on contracts, paid the lowest possible wages and chucked out at will. This is the real intention behind the argument that the wages of “blue-collar staff” should not be decided by a “government-appointed Wage Board” but by “bipartite negotiations” between management and unions. The salaries of the top corporate honchos, if clubbed together, could pay the wages of a few thousand employees.
The recent history of the newspaper industry is replete with examples of the growing intolerance displayed by managements towards unions and their office bearers. Our unions have been broken in several nefarious ways, including scapegoating and dismissal of union officebearers, mass retrenchments of blue collar worker and the introduction of the illegal contract system of employment. What more ‘flexibility’ does the industry demand?
Naked exploitation of the workforce is the objective underlying the Times of India’s “fundamental question” as to whether government “should be allowed to interfere in what is essentially an employer-employee relationship, that too in an organized, urban-centric industry”. If the newspaper owners really wish to have no interference from government they should stop their dependence on government subsidies including government advertising, land allotments at throwaway prices, subsidized newsprint, Income tax exemptions, postal concessions and several other concessions that they have misused to enrich themselves over the years. These concessions are made on the assumption that the Press serves a public purpose but in fact it is increasingly serving private interests. An industry that cannot protect and promote the interests of its own employees can hardly be expected to serve the public interest. Does it deserve such largesse? It is time for the proprietors to return to the government all the revenues and benefits they have garnered at the cost of the public exchequer.
The Times of India and other newspaper groups are willing to spend huge amounts of money on extravaganzas such as holding film festivals abroad or holding award functions for various influential groups but they do not want to pay their own employees a fair wage.
To suggest that there is no need for laws to govern the media industry is to make an argument for anarchy. The plea that the law should not apply as “the very definition of a print journalist is being blurred” and journalists are “moving from filing for online to writing for print to appearing on television, all in the course of a single workday” actually underlines the growing burden of today’s journalists who deserve both better pay and better working conditions. While extracting the maximum labour from employees by insisting on higher productivity, the industry wishes to deny us basic labour rights, fair wages and freedom of expression.
The most emotive argument being used by the daily is that “a driver’s salary will jump from Rs 36,000 to almost Rs 62,000 per month” and similar wage hikes will have to be given to other employees is absurd. Wages under the Wage Board Award will not go up so sharply. In fact, the majority of newspapers fall into low paying categories. According to the Press Information Bureau’s press release when the Award was announced, “The monthly emoluments for the lowest category of employee in the lowest class of establishment would work out to be Rs. 9000 for the basic pay at floor level minimum wage of Rs. 5000. The revised basic pay would however range from Rs. 9000 to Rs. 17500 for non-journalists and from Rs. 13000 to Rs. 25000 for working journalists in the top establishment having gross revenues of more than Rs. 1000 crores.”
The majority of newspaper groups do not fall into the Rs 1000 crore revenue category. However, their capacity to pay higher wages has been duly established by the Justice Majithia Wage Board and its Award has been upheld by the Supreme Court. If an impartial external audit of these companies was done, it would be evident that they can actually afford to pay wages far higher than those suggested by the Majithia Wage Board. The finances of the industry are opaque in nature as the managements have persistently refused to provide financial data to successive wage boards.
We urge the newspaper and newsagency bodies to now honour the verdict of the highest court in the land and pay the employees their dues, without further hindrance. Only a poor loser cries foul.
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