Nation Media Group management has zeroed in on five more journalists in the ongoing restructuring that has already seen at least 15 employees sent home.
The company, Kenya’s leading media house, has been forced to cut costs by reducing its payroll to remain afloat in a fledgling media industry where most players are facing lean times.
After dealing with employees hired under the management’s terms, focus has shifted to the five journalists members of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ). NMG issued a one-month notice to KUJ of the intention to lay off the five on 26th January, which lapses on 25th February.
More work for editors
Already, NMG has fired senior editors and managers, in a surprise move that those affected claim was unfair. The editors who left include Peter leftie, Peter Wangai, Peter Munaita, and Lucas Barasa, while in management the Company Secretary James Kinyua was dropped among others in commercial and printing plant.
Those journalists already fired had been hired under management and thus not allowed to join the union, a tactic media houses are using to reduce pressure from pesky unions that push for salaries and fair dismissals.
With what is seen as lean staff, the choice of who to go must be a tricky one, though insiders see the ax falling mainly on sub-editors on sections believed to be over-staffed. This means there will be more pressure on editors and sub-editors who will now have to take on extra work to deliver their products.
The notice has created tension among unionised journalists at Nation Centre with some speculating that The East African weekly newspaper and Taifa Leo could be raided.
Analysts say the one-month notice issued to union employees should be a wake-up to journalists not just at Nation but also other media houses on the key role played by unions. Journalists under management were ambushed with sacking letters, going against the natural rule of justice in labour that requires employers to prepare their employees for job losses.
Standard, Mediamax and Radio Africa, which have sacked lately, are known to issue at least one-month notice. Observers say Nation, armed with huge cash reserves, is emboldened to pay employees in lieu of notice, the psychological implications notwithstanding.
BBC should serve as a role model for local media houses. The media house, which intends to offload employees, issued a notice to them way back in November 2019, a whole three months to give them ample time to plan their exit and, if possible, find a soft landing.