Are Media Companies turning the Lockdown into a Lockout?

The National Alliance of Journalists(NAJ) and Delhi Union of Journalists(DUJ) is shocked at reports pouring in of sackings and pay cuts in the media at this critical time. 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.

NAJ-DUJ President S.K.Pande, DUJ General Secretary Sujata Madhok, NAJ Secretary General N.Kondaiah and APWJF General Secretary G.Anjaneyulu said “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.”

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 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.

In 2016 the media industry misused the demonetisation decision to enforce mass retrenchments. Today some media companies are threatening to turn the lockdown into a lockout.

We wish to point out that hundreds of journalists across the country are 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.

We remind all that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, in his several of his recent addresses to the nation, has appealed to employers to show empathy, not deduct salaries and not sack any employee during the lockdown.

The NAJ and DUJ expresses solidarity with those impacted by the arbitrary moves of media moguls. We demand that media companies immediately restore the jobs and salaries of all employees.”


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