Monday, June 27, 2011

Scribes nationwide dharna on June 28 for wage boards

Scribes to hold nationwide dharna on June 28 for wage boards

 Workers of newspapers and news agencies will hold dharnas across the country on Tuesday 28th June 2011 to protest against the "delay" in notification of wage boards for them.

According to PTI Report, the decision to hold day-long dharnas on June 28 was taken at an emergency meeting of Confederation of Newspaper and News Agency Employees' Organisations (CNNAEO) at New Delhi.

In the main dharna in Delhi, mediapersons will hold a sit-in at Jantar Mantar.

Similar dharnas will be organised in the state capitals on the same day, CNNAEO General Secretary M S Yadav said.

Members of PTI Employees Union, AINEF, IJU, IFWJ, NUJI and UNI Workers Union participated in the meeting. State units of all these Unions will stage dharanas in the respective states.

 In Karnataka  Bangalore News Paper Employees Union (BNEU), Karnataka Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Journalists Association of Karnataka (JAK) and other Journalist and Non - Journalist organisatios stage dhanana jointly. In Bangalore dharana will be held near Mahathma Gandhi Stautue at M.G. Road.

M.S. Yadav said leaders of all political parties and trade unions would be invited to the dharna.

The CNNAEO have leaders threatened to intensify their agitation by organising nation-wide strikes if the government did not act promptly in favour of journalists and non-journalists by notifying the report.

Yadav alleged that the government under "influence" of the INS (Indian Newspaper Society) is "sitting" on the wage boards recommendations, which was submitted timely to the government by its chairperson Justice (Retd) G R Majithia on December 31, 2010.

The CNNAEO General Secretary accused the INS of spreading "falsehood" against the wage boards to deny wage hike to workers and to "black out" news of the workers.

The INS' behaviour was "unethical", he said.

Why Journalists and Non Journalists of News Paper Industry  decided to hold this nationwide  Dharana?

Here is the full text of statement issued by M.S.  Talwar, General Secretary of AINEF (All India Newspaper Employees Federation):

Of late, a campaign of calumny has been launched by a few big newspapers and their organisation, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) against their poor employees in the newspaper industry and the statutorily constituted wage boards. They are indulging in a vulgar show of strength and money power against an unequal partner with their own set of rules. Making a gross misuse of their newspapers, they are publishing articles and advertisements against the very people who helped them earn heaps of money to build their empires, buy prime land at throw away prices in the name of press freedom and abusing their newspapers for making and breaking governments to suit their own ends.

They are sending small newspapers out of business in a cut-throat competition by offering a
thicker-than-32-page newspaper like the Times of India at a price less than one-tenth of the cost of newsprint that goes into it. Isn’t that a threat to the press freedom? They even want the Government to do away with the Working Journalist Act.

Employees have waited for almost 13 years for a revision of their salaries which were last revised in 1998. The two wage boards, one for journalists and the other for the non-journalist newspaper employees, were appointed in 2007 to go into the question. Hundreds of pages of evidence by both employees and employers were placed before the wage boards and based on this evidence and more than three years of study of the case, the boards submitted their reports to the Government of India on December 2010. Now that the Government is ready to issue a notification, the employers have started spreading the lies to mislead the public and the Government,   

It is a shame that the Times of India is leading this campaign for press freedom, a newspaper that has swallowed many a small and medium newspaper like a shark, forgetting that in the process it has done more harm than anyone else to the press freedom. They have made the newspaper, claimed to be a mission, a purely commercial venture. They are doing all this to deny a few more rupees to their toiling workers and all in the name of the freedom of press. The present campaign is against the wage board reports which have tried to do some justice to a hapless community suffering for decades.

The Times of India started the contract system among journalists followed by other big newspapers in the industry who are now employing employees on short-term contracts and paying some of them much higher wages than those recommended by the wage boards to keep these employees under their thumb. Any right-thinking person can imagine how free a journalist can be who is always at the mercy of newspaper managements for the renewal of their contracts. The gullible employees have no choice but to toe the line of the management or the editor while filing their stories. He can do otherwise only at the cost of his job. Are all managements and editors above board? Are they worried about press freedom or their own freedom? They are accusing the Government of violating freedom of press by appointing the wage boards. Are they promoting freedom of press with their own acts?

It is too late in the day to indulge in a debate. The wage boards have submitted their reports and the Government has no choice but to issue a notification. The wage boards heard everyone who wanted to be heard. They went to the doorsteps of the newspaper employers by visiting major publication centres before submitting their report. The employers had all the time to file their views and objections on the issue.

After going through the material before the boards, Justice Majithia has came to the conclusion that the gross revenue of the print media has been increasing and in 2014 it is expected to reach Rs.269 billion.

He has pointed out that the gross revenue, which was Rs.139 billion in 2006, went up to Rs.175 billion in 2009. “The gross revenue of the print media industry grew at the compound annual rate of 8.12 per cent during 2006-09 and is projected to grow at the compound annual rate of 9 per cent during 2009-14.”

“During the period 2009-2014, the advertisement revenue is expected to record a compound growth rate of 11.6 per cent per annum and that of circulation revenue by 5 per cent.

Justice Majithia claimed that the capacity to pay of media establishments was assessed “based on the financial data of a statistically representative cross section of around 40 establishments. The report said the basic pay for each category of the employees in various classes of establishments had been fixed to compensate for increase in cost of living since the previous (wage boards) awards given in 1999.”

The Indian Newspaper Society had equal representatives with the newspaper workers on the boards. Then perhaps these employers thought they are above all law because they own a newspaper and they can force the Government into conceding to their illegal demands at any time they wished. Isn't it rather strange that all those managements making a hue and cry are the big newspapers whose revenues go into billions and not a single small newspaper has raised a finger against the recommendations?
 These big newspapers are now misusing their newspapers in a campaign against the poor employees shamelessly. Do they have the courage to publish employees views on the issue? Let them come forward and publish this? They paid peanuts to the employees for all these years and built huge buildings, even banks, for themselves. Now that Justice Majithia wage boards have allowed a respectable wage to the employees why are they are crying wolf and putting roadblocks in its way? Is it fair? They are already paying to some of the employees wages which are more than those recommended by the wage boards. Do they want unto themselves the power of hiring, firing and fixing wages? Is that what they call freedom of press? Or do they want unfettered freedom for themselves even at the cost of hundreds of workers. If that is the attitude of these newspaper employers, would the employees be unfair in demanding to invoke the MRTP Act against some of these big newspapers for the sake of freedom of press?
 From time to time, they have questioned the wisdom of the very enactment of enacting the Journalist Act because it comes in the way of their own freedom. There was a definite purpose behind enacting the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service and Miscellaneous) Act and the provision of wage fixation machinery under it, and it was to prevent the misuse of wage revision as a tool in the hands of employers against the freedom of the press and for discrimination between honest and stooge journalists. It was enacted to give a sense of assurance and protection to journalists who work sometimes at the risk of their lives. Newspapers are not like any other industry. It is a special industry and therefore needs special conditions of service. These employers are accusing the Government of misusing the wage boards for pleasing the journalists and newspaper workers and thus jeopardising the freedom of press. Can anyone believe that a journalist will remain loyal to the Government simply because it set up a wage board under the law of the land once in 8-10 years time. Does it not sound more logical that a jouranlist can be coerced into toeing the line of the editor or the employer if he is left to their mercy.  Everyone knows that the employers are more prone to misusing journalists than the Government. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru was at the helm when this legislation was enacted. Aren’t these new self-styled champions of the press freedom denigrating the wisdom of the former prime minister who was one of a very few known democrats and statesmen the world has ever known?
 Lastly, a word of caution! The employees have been peaceful so far because they and their unions do not believe in a destructive approach. They have in the past taught lessons to those trampling their rights and they will not keep quiet this time too if they are forced to take any such action.  

No comments: