Coming out strongly against several media houses for shutting operations, firing staff and team and unilateral cuts in salaries of journalists and other employees, the Mumbai Press Club has asked the government to blacklist such media groups.
In a release, the Mumbai Press Club urged the union government to blacklist all media groups that have carried out illegal terminations of employees and closures, and bar them from benefiting in any way from the government’s rescue package or tax waiver schemes, as well exclude these companies from being recipients of government advertising.
Mumbai Press Club says, "It has also come to our notice that despite this flouting of the law and killing of jobs by the media companies, they have on the other hand been appealing to government for aid. The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has written to the union ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) on 9th April seeking waiver of 5% customs duty on newsprint, two-year tax holiday for newspaper establishments, 50% increase in advertisement rate of Bureau of Outreach and Communication and a 100% increase in budget spend for the print media."
It says, "At a time when media employees are going through challenging times and braving the coronavirus to go onto the field, and risking their lives to keep operations going, they have been ‘rewarded’ for their loyalty by the handing out of pink slips. These firings and closure of departments are both contrary to the due process of law, as well as violation of the advisories put out by the central government."
"There is no doubt that business operations during the current lockdown are facing a crisis. However, it is expected that these companies should stand by their employees in this time of extreme crisis; and review their operations only when the situation eases. It is also not the case that all the media companies are in bad shape. The bigger groups like the Bennett, Coleman & Company (BCCL) or the Times Group, HT Media, the Bhaskar and Jagran Groups and ABP Ltd are profitable and doing well. The few months of losses cannot be held against their employees, especially when for years these are the very journos and employees who have slaved for them to turn in a profit," the Press Club says.
As per the release, Hamara Mahanagar shut operations on 18th March citing poor business viability, while Outlook and Forbes India suspended print operations on 30th March and 27 March 2020, respectively. About 15 journalists of the Sakal Group were asked to resign on 31st March, Indian Express and Business Standard announced salary cuts ranging from 30% to 50%.
A section of journalists at Quint were asked to go on leave without pay, others were asked to take a salary cut on 9th and 10th April. News Nation laid off its entire English digital team of 15 journalists and Star of Mysore suspended print operations on 12th April. Nai Duniya owned by Dainik Jagran suspended print operations on 13th April.
Some of the big groups including Times Group, HT Media, Network18 Group and India Today Group have cut back or abolished emoluments and perks and are planning the shut down some departments and supplements and retrenching staff to save revenue. If these go through, huge job losses are on the cards, it says.
It may be recalled that the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment had issued a circular on 20 March 2020 advising both public and private employers not to terminate employees or reduce wages. In his address to the nation on 14th April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi again reiterated in his ‘Appeal No.6’ to businessmen and companies not to terminate their employees at the time of crisis.
"It is in flagrant violation of the government’s directions that media houses have gone ahead and sacked personal and closed operations. These actions are also in breach of the law which requires government permission for closure and notice pay and other compensation under Sections 25 (O) and (F) as well as other provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act before terminating employees," the Mumbai Press Club says.