The retrenchment exercise at the Standard Media Group is said to have caught all the editors unawares almost leading to a crucial segment of the company’s flagship newspaper almost failing to make it to press.
Insiders say the company had planned to sack about 200 of it’s near 1,000 employees across the country but only ended up retrenching less than five journalists.
The company however wiped out almost its entire technical staff. Technical staff are non journalists who help to keep a media house running from day to day. These includes secretaries, receptionists, office messengers, those who cook tea etc.
Apart from the fact that the company fell short of getting the money to retrench the number of journalists it had intended, the exercise was carried out solely by senior management and the Human Resources (HR) department.
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Senior editors including editorial director Ochieng Rapuro was caught by surprise as some of his most dependable staff were called to pick their dismissal letters without his knowledge.
This almost crippled production of the Standard Newspaper as all the editors who work on the op ed section. The op ed section which usually run’s after a newspaper’s editorial position is crucial to any publication as it provides opportunities to external writers who are mostly experts to express their opinions on topical matters.
At the Standard, this section is usually managed by Kinuthia Njoroge with the assistance of Geofrey Ombogo and Nicholas Asego who also double up as quality assurance editors.
All of the three journalists were told to pick their dismissal letters together with KTN’s Odeo Sirari. However in the middle of the exercise, HR were informed that they were sending home the entire team that produces the op-ed section yet there was no plan in place on how to replace them.
Furthermore there was a paper that was in production for that day but because HR never consulted anyone, an entire production was almost being crippled.
After realising they had made a blunder, the company told Kinuthia Njoroge he was not being fired after all. Ombogo and Asego were however sent home.
Standard, which has been having a difficult time paying its employees had promised to pay them tomorrow January, 23 in order to avert industrial action after negotiating with the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ).
The last time employees at Kenya’s oldest media house were paid a full salary was September last year. The company had promised to clear all the arrears in December but only managed to pay 80 percent of the October salary.