Assam scribes echo BUJ concern over media job crisis
Posted on January 7th, 2017

 By NJ Thakuria

Guwahati:  Worried over one of the leading media houses in the country,  HT Media Ltd’s decision to shut down four editions of its English daily  Hindustan Times , Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) expressed serious concern over the development.

It may be mentioned that various bodies of journalists across the country expressed serious concern over the HT Media’s  decision to shut down Hindustan Times’ four editions. Leading scribe body Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists  (BUJ) while condemning the HT Media Ltd’s decision said that for this development, hundreds of journalist would lose their job.

The Assam based media rights body asserted that the development shows the lack of goodwill of the newspaper managements to offer due benefits to their own employees.

Mentionable is that the BUJ, in a recent statement from Mumbai, strongly condemned the decision of HT Media Ltd to shut down four editions of Hindustan Times (HT) in Kolkata, Bhopal, Indore and Ranchi and three bureaus of Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi with effect from 9 January 2017. The journalist union also demanded to immediately revoke the decisions, failing which it would draw the attention of the apex court in the country to these developments in the hearing slated for

10 January next.

The closing down of four editions and three bureaus at one go is an unprecedented event in the history of Indian print media and has clearly been done to circumvent the implementation of the Majithia Wage Board Award, which was upheld by the Supreme Court by its judgment dated 7 February 2014,” said the BUJ statement.

It also added that apart from closing down four editions, the HT authority  was pruning staff in various departments as well as in The Mint, a sister publication from the New Delhi based group and shut down the business bureaus in Mumbai and Delhi, besides the bureau in Kolkata. Hundreds of journalists and other media employees are likely to lose their jobs as a consequence of these malicious and illegal decisions, added the statement.

A BSE listed entity, HT Media Ltd with an annual turnover of over rupees 2000 crore has not implemented the recommendations of Majithia wage board in any of its units and forced employees to submit undertakings under clause 20(j) of the award to renounce the benefits under it. The company also failed to implement clause 9(b) that entitles even those working on contract basis to receive variable pay at the rate of 30 percent of basic scale.

It is astonishing that a hugely profitable company like HT Media Ltd (whose third quarter of Calendar 2016 earnings stood at Rs 602.23

crore) has chosen to illegally close down six editions of Hindustan Times and sack several other journalists working in various bureaus rather than implementing the statutory wage board recommendations,”

asserted the BUJ.

Also added, Furthermore, the company’s official website has projected a total revenue of Rs 662.40 crore, in Q1FY2017, which constitutes an increase of 7.5 per cent over the corresponding quarter of the previous year.  It also maintains a strong balance sheet position with net cash of Rs 823.40 crore.”

We, in Assam, witnessed the sudden closure of a mainstream Assamese daily in November last year, where the management (proprietor being a former  Congress minister) maintained serene silence over the matter.

Many journalist  friends, engaged with Janasadharan, preferred to quit the job with three months cumulative salaries, but the rest are still on warpath against the management,” said JFA president Rupam Barua.

As the heat of Majithia wage board rises, most of the newspaper managements in Guwahati have adopted many clever (also innovative) ways to deal with the situation, said a JFA statement adding that some of them preached for reappointing all of their employees in the contract system.

Some media house managements proposed to degrade all the employees including the journalists in positions with an aim to reduce the financial burden, and few have more astonishing idea to pay an employee according to the guidelines of the wage board with an inherent condition that he/she would return a major portion of the salary to the account department.

Even though The Assam Tribune group of publications set the example in implementing the Majithia wage board recommendation years back, it has not inspired the other Guwahati based newspaper managements to take similar initiatives for offering legal dues to their employees,”asserted the JFA statement questioning, ”Are they waiting to get their newspaper establishments declared as law-breaking institutions in India?”

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