A simmering rebellion is brewing at Standard Group, the country’s second biggest media house, after it emerged that management had selectively paid out bonuses to a section of editorial staff, leaving out a majority of the journalists.
The Kenya Union of Journalists, whose members missed out on the latest bonus payout, is understood to be planning a go-slow over what they term as ‘clear discriminatory procedures’ by the company in leaving them out of the 2018 reward scheme.
The bonus was paid after the Group turned around from a loss of Ksh210 million in 2017 to a Ksh261 million profit for the year ended December 31, 2018. “The staff are demoralized. They are not working. And they are already taking long lunch breaks and just doing enough to get by,” a journalist affiliated to KUJ told Business Today on phone.
The affected employees are pushing KUJ to take swift action by writing a demand letter to the company and issue a strike notice if the bonus will not have been paid in two weeks.
Apart from the now controversial reward scheme, there is a pending collective bargaining agreement between the members of the union and the company with regard to salary increase. The CBA, which ought to have come into play 15 months ago, has yet to be effected in spite of a court order.
Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu had, at a staff communication meeting, announced that all staff would benefit from the bonus, that was to be paid out in two batches. The first batch was 30% of employee gross salaries which went out to every employee.
The second batch of 70% was also to be paid out to all employees, but was dependent on a performance appraisal whose score was decided by individual employees and their line managers.
“There was no communication at the time that union members would not be beneficiaries of the scheme,” the journalist, who requested not to be named, added. “Then why were we beneficiaries from the first payout?”
The developments that have come as a surprise to the employees could complicate things further for the media house that is suffering from low staff morale as a result of hemorrhaging of key talent to rival media houses.
Unionisable journalists say the bonus is shrouded with confusion. First they were told the payouts were interrupted by a systems failure that hit the finance section on Monday as the bonuses were paid out. Employees who didn’t get their money on Tuesday were promised to get it on Thursday. That did not happen, and none of them had received any payout as we published this article.
It remains to be seen how far the calls for the go-slow will go and whether the disenfranchised union members who form a bulk of the editorial staff countrywide will look at the legal options available to them.
A few months ago, union members in management positions were unsubscribed from the union, but protest from union lawyers forced Standard managers to recall the letters.
Most employees are pointing an accusing finger at HR Director Nicholas Siwatom, whom they accuse of high handedness and acting in contravention of HR best practises. Siwatom, who replaced Pauline Kiraithe, was forced to withdraw the letters after KUJ threatened to sue him in person.
A new battlefront has been opened pitting the company’s top management against its very own worker bees.
Business Today is the leading independent online business website in Kenya. Started in 2012 by a veteran business journalist, it has a huge following both in Kenya and abroad. It covers various business and related issues. Email editor at: [email protected]