At NMG, employees fired and rehired on contracts

The strategy means that those affected are newly employed, and would thus be easy to fire after say, six month or even a few years

There is growing frustration among Nation Media Group (NMG) employees with what they see as a calculated move by the company to change terms of their employment from permanent to contract.

This emerged after one of the editors who was sacked on Tuesday was immediately rehired on contract. Wayua Muli, the editor of Saturday Magazine, which is popular among women, got her job back but without benefits that come with permanent employment such as pension and lavish allowances and medical cover.

Medical insurance cover for contracted employees has also been cut. Sources indicate more journalists have been given such offers, which are coming with a pay cut as well.

To firm up this strategy of shifting employment terms to contracts, which is cheaper when it comes to offloading staff, Nation Media Group human resources office has asked staff in sales and advertising to resign and re-apply for the jobs on contractual terms. Having them resign reduces the cost of expensing with them compared to firing them which would require the company to pay full benefits.

Insiders say this is a strategy to reduce its wage bill burden, which is the largest expense in its operations.

READ: Joe Muganda: Former beer seller leaves NMG high and dry

Employees nearing retirement have been spared the agony. NMG hopes that with less pensionable employees it can reduce staff costs and make it easy to fire some, if need be, by just letting contracts expire. Contracts mean that those affected are newly employed, and would thus be easy to fire after say, six month or even a few years.

Employees, desperate to keep their jobs, are complaining only quietly. But even more stressed are those who haven’t been touched as they are working in anxiety.

This information came out on the third but quiet day of Nation’s third phase of restructuring in which top TV and newspaper journalists have been pushed out. They include NTV head of news Emmanuel Juma and Daily Nation news managers and gate-keepers Bernard Namunane and Tim Wanyonyi.

SEE: Journalist who dared President Moi passes on

NMG is also grappling with a rebellion by some senior managers who have refused to sign their redundancy letters, saying their employer was out to cheat them of their terminal dues. They claim the company has offered a golden handshake, which is way below what is due to them under the redundancy terms they are being fired.

An advert by NMG on Wednesday calling for applications from contributors and columnist raised eyebrows, coming in thick of a retrenchment that has shaken not just Nation Centre but the entire media industry.

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