A sustained effort by Mediamax employees to thwart attempts to slash their salaries has hit a dead end after the organisation stood its ground on Tuesday setting the stage for round two of the face-off between the Kenyatta Family owned organisation and the journalists led by popular K24 Presenter Betty Kyalo.
In a circular issued on Tuesday, Acting Chief Executive Ken Ngaruiya says the pay cuts: 50% for high earners and 20-30% for low earners have been mooted “to salvage jobs” adding the situation will be reviewed based on status and effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic with the first review slated to be held after three months.
Ngaruiya has advised journalists who are yet to respond to the initial circular to respond with comments or suggestions that the company can take to solve the impassse.
“We would like to progress this consultation, we would therefore be grateful if you forward your feedback or executed consent on or before 5:00 pm on April 28, 2020,” reads the circular.
Some 164 Mediamax journalists led by Kyalo and Felix Odiwuour alias Jalang’o had moved to court to challenge the decision to slash their salaries with high earners like the aforementioned duo breathing fire over the proposed steep pay cut.
Business Today has reported that the journalists managed to get an injunction to stop the cuts on Saturday but an impromptu visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta to DSM Place on Sunday was supposed to smooth things over and avoid the confrontation.
President Kenyatta was concerned how the rebellion would impact on his family’s image and political clout.
This publication also reported that Ngaruiya was put to task and asked to justify the 50% pay cuts while other media houses were effecting between 20-30% cuts.
But it seems now reality is about to sink in considering Mediamax is adamant that it cannot sustain the huge payroll.
“It remains unclear when the COVID-19 pandemic will end and how long the Mediamax Business will be felt,” Ngaruiya says in his latest circular.
Even before the COVID-19 Pandemic, signs of a poor performing Mediamax Business were already there.
Betty Kyalo and Anne Kiguta marginally survived the axe in 2019 when the company made one of the biggest retrenchments in Kenya’s media history.
The retrenchment which claimed the jobs of 160 journalists including 10 editors among them Torome Tirike, Frankline Wambugu and Ali Mtenzi was informed by low ratings which affected the company’s ability to attract revenue.
Kyalo and Kiguta who were prized away from KTN and Citizen TV respectively with fat salaries avoided the sack after Mediamax executives opted against the move on account they were fairly new to their new surroundings and amid concerns how their sackings would have affected the company’s image considering Mediamax has developed a reputation for killing the careers of popular media personalities.
Previously, the company has enticed journalists with good packages only to fire them later. Those who have borne this brunt include former KTN Kiswahili presenter Anne Ngugi, who was sacked while pregnant. Others include a group of journalists – Janet Chapia, Dancun Khaemba, Chris Thairu, Anders Ihachi and Geoffrey Wachira – who left Citizen only to be fired two years later.
Former big names such as Tom Mboya and Belinda Obura were also shown the door despite being part of a team put together to “challenge” the big boys.