Royal Media Services, the parent company of Citizen Tv and Radio, has announced a general salary reduction for all its staff as the negative effects of Coronavirus outbreak in Kenya begin to sink in, sending more chills in a media industry already feeling cold from reduced advertising.
In an internal memo released by management today, RMS says its workers will be subjected to a compulsory pay cut of between 20% and 30%. The Covid-19 crisis, though, appears to have given RMS a perfect opportunity to implement cost-cutting options it has been toying with over the past few months. There has been talk of the company seeking to cut its costs after cleaning its payroll of ghost workers last year.
Shift working system
“The unprecedented outbreak of the coronavirus in the world and Kenya, in particular, has had serious repercussions on businesses, including ours,” Royal Media Services MD Wachira Waruru says in the Memo, dated 27th March. “This reality necessitates that we take difficult but necessary measures to see us through this period, one of which is to scale down our operations until the situation normalizes.”
The move is expected to hit hard its celebrity presenters with seven-figure salaries including JKL show host Jeff Koinange, Strategy Director Linus Kaikai and Editorial Director Joe Ageyo among others. A 30% shave from a salary of Ksh1 million, for instance, amounts to Ksh300,000, which cannot be neutralised by the government income tax relief of 5 percentage points from 30% to 25%.
Mr Waruru said media, being an essential service during the Covid-19 partial lockdown in the country, a scaled-down the operation of RMS across its radio, TV and digital platforms would continue with minimal staff.
The broadcast giant has created a shift working system that will be used by the skeleton staff. “In order to reduce exposure, all other staff will proceed to take their accrued leave and, if exhausted, leave in advance until further notice,” the circular says.
With such an arrangement most of the affected staff would be having one foot out of RMS, which would have still cut its staff without even the Coronavirus intervention.
The 20% to 30% reduction of gross monthly salary will be based on job levels effective 1st April 2020 until the situation returns to normal. With the uncertainty brought about by Coronavirus, a salary cut is beginning to look a better option than losing a job.
“Though the above measures are hard and drastic, we urge all to take this move positively,” he said. “Our commitment is to ensure that staff are able to meet their needs during this very difficult time. We will constantly review all or some of these measures as the situation dictates and advice accordingly.”
What next for NMG?
Standard Group recently issued a notice to lay off 170 employees, which coincided with the Coronavirus outbreak in Kenya. It’s not clear whether Standard will still go ahead and fire people given the current situation. A source at Standard says the company has been holding talks with Kenya Union of Journalists, a sign that it could still retrench.
Focus now turns to other private media houses led by Nation Media Group, Mediamax Networks Ltd and Radio Africa Group which have recently restructured as well as government-owned KBC.