NAGPUR, Maharashtra: More than 100 reporters, sub-editors, and other staff across various editions of The Hindu newspaper have been asked to tender their resignations by the management as part of the layoffs that have hit the media industry after the coronavirus pandemic began.
The Mumbai edition of The Hindu, which is run by The Hindu Group (a subsidiary of Kasturi & Sons Ltd), has been the most affected by this decision with over 20 people, mostly journalists, having been asked to resign by June 25 and June 30. Many of them, however, are still holding on, and asking the management to clarify the situation.
“There has been no official communication in this regard as yet, nothing in writing so far, but our resident editor called us and told us to resign and that we will get three months’ basic pay and dearness allowance,” a Maharashtra-based journalist who has been asked to resign from the newspaper told HuffPost India on the condition of anonymity.
HuffPost India spoke to several journalists working across various editions of The Hindu, who all confirmed that they are not being offered any settlement other than three months’ basic pay and dearness allowance.
“It adds up to a meagre amount. It’s not even a salary,” said a journalist from Mumbai, repeating that while senior editors have asked them to resign, there has been no written communication.
The Hindu had launched its Mumbai edition only in November 2015.
HuffPost India has reached out to Suresh Nambath, editor of The Hindu, and Vikas Dhoot, resident editor of Mumbai, over phone, WhatsApp and text messages but they have not responded yet.
HuffPost India has also sent them questions over email and will update this story when they respond.
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown have hit revenue across industries, and many companies have been asking employees to take pay cuts or resign. In the media sector, apart from The Hindu, The Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Telegraph had also laid off employees.
Many organisations across sectors have resorted to asking employees to leave rather than terminating them, allegedly to avoid bad press and, in some cases, to not pay rightful benefits.
The Press Council of India on Monday took suo moto cognizance of the development and asked for comments from The Hindu’s editor and regional general manager, Mumbai.
“The Press Council of India Chairman Justice C.K. Prasad has noted with concern that a large number of journalists associated with the daily newspaper The Hindu and working at the Mumbai Bureau have been asked to resign from their position. It has come to the notice that the management of the newspaper is not taking recourse to the terms and conditions by which they are governed and the terms and conditions of their appointment excluded the application of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 for redressal of their grievances rendering them Remediless,” read a press statement issued by PCI chairman Justice C.K. Prasad.
The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists also condemned the move, calling it an “illegal sacking”.
“We are shocked that the management of The Hindu Group (THG) (A subsidiary of Kasturi & Sons Ltd) has chosen to emulate other media houses in using covert coercive tactics against employees to obtain resignations. This disturbing trend of employees putting in their papers under duress clearly reveals that the companies want to eschew payment of legal dues and circumvent due process of law. It is distressing to note that media houses are resorting to all kinds of skulduggery, i.e. obtaining forcible resignations, enforcing pay-cuts, implementing compulsory leave without pay,etc-under the cover of the current COVID-19 crisis. By first refusing to properly implement the Majithia Wage Board Award and now by adopting a “mixed bag of tricks”, newspaper (and other media ) groups are making it clear that they are above the law of the land,” the working journalists’ body said in a statement on Sunday.
Few affected journalists have been able to speak out or protest, as they are concerned about where they can find jobs from during a pandemic-induced economic crisis. In the case of The Hindu, many journalists also say that they shifted from the government-mandated Wage Board contract, which promised fairer benefits, to Kasturi & Sons Ltd contracts “in good faith”, leaving them open to exploitation.
People familiar with the matter also told HuffPost India that the chiefs of the bureau of The Hindu’s all editions in Eastern India have also been asked to step down with similar settlements.
Even those who have not been asked to resign yet are living and working in fear.
“We have not been asked to resign yet but who knows if they will transfer you to some faraway state next month. That won’t leave us any option but to leave,” said a sub-editor of The Hindu, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Our contract did not have any such clause that they can sack us at will which is why they are asking us to resign. If they terminate us they will have to give us much more as per the Working Journalists rules. To avoid all this, they have asked us to resign on our own. We understand that the company is bleeding and we will have to go. We have not yet responded because it is still sinking in and we are still hopeful of some proper settlement offers,” the person said.
Around 20 journalists from The Hindu’s Mumbai edition wrote a letter to senior editors and management of the newspaper on Monday, requesting them to clarify the paper’s position.
“The principles on which The Hindu has operated in the past is what should apply to us as a team now. For a news organization that prides itself on reporting labour laws and violations of the same – in a robust manner – we appeal to you to clarify the situation to us in writing,” they wrote.