Journalists at Kenya’s oldest media house are set to go on strike over a delay in the payment of their salaries following an expiry of a notice by Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ).
The Mombasa road based media house which runs The Standard newspaper, KTN and Radio Maisha has not paid its staff their salaries for the last three months citing a tough business environment.
Last month the group CEO Olyando Lomu however promised to clear any arrears before the end of December.
This is however yet to happen leaving the company’s staff which majorly consists of journalists struggling to pay for their living expenses at a time when the economy is doing badly.
Most of them are now opting to work from home as they cannot afford fuel for their cars kr bus fare in order to come to work.
The worst affected are correspondents who for the last few years have been surviving on irregular payment of their meager salaries. Insiders say some of them haven’t been paid for about six months now.
KUJ, the umbrella body for all journalists has termed this as exploitation and asked scribes at the media group to down their tools next week.
“The company cannot hide behind the post Covid 19 effects, since violation of workers’ rights started before the pandemic,” KUJ’s secretary general Eric Oduor has said in a statement.
“This is inhuman and demonstrates impunity as staff have for the past three months struggled to meet their financial obligations in the wake of soaring cost of living being experienced across the country. The staff have been deprived dignity, especially during this festive season where families enjoy the fruit of their hard labour,” said Oduor.
Media Houses are currently struggling to manage their payrolls as a disruption caused by the internet continues to eat into their earnings.
Media bosses have seemingly been unable to turn around their business models in order to adopt make profit as their advertising revenue distribution models face a certain death as they no longer control how news is consumed.
Apart from the Standard where employees have gone without salaries for months, Media Max has been paying its staff half salary for the last two years. Capital Media group too has indicated it will slash salaries by half for its staff.
At Standard Group however, it has been a sad Christmas as none of its staff was paid before the start of the festive season. The last time they were paid was August.
“This insensitivity and don’t care attitude has been going on for three months, and to add salt to the injury, the management has unilaterally decided to chop salaries of staff in total disregard to the Employment Act that protects salaries of staff from unlawful deductions,” said KUJ.
The company had announced it would lay off a number of its staff in order to stay afloat in December. This idea was shelved at the last minute after banks refused to give the company money for the excercise
While it is true that Standard Group like all media houses is struggling because of the disruption caused by the internet, insiders say the a bug chunk of the company’s problems are home grown.
A clique of powerful individuals some of whom are not on senior management positions have hemorrhaged the company through dubious deals leaving the CEO Olyando Lomu in a fix.
Deapite the tough business environment the company has been on a spending spree opening or buying new stations without thought on whether they can bring in revenue.
In the last three years the company has opened up Spice FM, Vybez Radio, KTN Burudani, KTN Farmers and two new regional newspapers when other media houses had frozen new investments.
It also invested hundreds of millions in a new newsroom at Mombasa road on the pretext that it was returning all its journalists from their town centre at I&M building.
All these investments have failed to pay off. Vybes Radio will be the first to shut down