Nation Media Group begins its retrenchment process today by meeting those earmarked for layoff ahead of 3rd July when they will start receiving their letters.
Yesterday, the company’s human resources department started notifying the employees through phone calls, just hours after the group CEO, Stephen Gitagama, released a circular on restructuring that sent chills in the Nation family in Nairobi and the counties. Most staff are now dreading getting a call from office numbers.
On the firing line
It is understood that a number senior journalists were informed of the impending sacking last evening and invited for a meeting with HR today morning. This is seen as a preliminary step to prepare those affected for the untimely loss of their jobs through counseling, more to look good than make the decision less painful and disruptive.
At the meeting, each employee will be taken through the reasons for being sacked and how to survive outside Nation Media Group.
Sources at NMG’s HR office have indicated that 60 journalists could be pushed out from its main operation in Kenya – 40 from the newspaper section and 20 from broadcast, mainly NTV, with the rest picked from other departments. Across the region, the company targets over 100 employees, as the economic impact of Covid-19 takes its toll on the circulation of newspapers, viewership, and advertising.
“It is an extremely difficult decision in view of the prevailing circumstances and we understand the impact this will have on those affected and their families,” Gitagama says in the 1st July circular. “The exercise will be carried out with utmost respect to our affected colleagues and in adherence to the Kenyan labour laws.”
NMG says it has put in place arrangements to provide the necessary support for exiting staff to manage this difficult transition.
First, those affected will receive counselling support, while those stationed outside Nairobi will be offered relocation assistance. Also, the laid off staff will receive medical cover for a period of two months until August 31, 2020, in a rare show of magnanimity.
Thereafter, the company has negotiated a medical insurance scheme through its current provider which those affected may opt to individually join.
This arrangement makes Mediamax Networks Ltd look like a monster. The company owned by President Kenyatta’s family recently sacked employees on SMS on Sunday night and rubbed salt in the injury by staggering payment over three years on top of holding three month salary. Earlier, Mediamax had implemented a 50% pay cut while other media houses capped their salary reductions at 35%.
The NMG retrenchment, seen as coming too early in the Covid-19 period, has put paid to the claim that the media house has huge cash reserves to run its operations for at least two years without making a profit.
Strategically, it’s a panic move by management to reducing burning cash as revenues shrink and find itself in a hole, especially after issuing a profit warning. Operationally, pushing out another set of journalists will certainly affect the quality of its journalism and expose its market share to raids by rivals.