The manner in which news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) had laid off 297 employees on September 29 only highlights about the uncertainty of jobs in media and news agencies. News agencies are known to follow hire and fire policy and terminate services of employees as they face huge hardships to search alternate employment. Due to dwindling advertising revenues and cut throat competition from digital media many newspapers are resorting to cost cutting by retrenching their staff. As a result of this, employees get worried about their future due to limited job opportunities available for them. They also don’t have any forum to address their grievances.
Narendra Wable, President of Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh said, “The newspaper industry is looking at downsizing its workforce and trying to sack journalists. PTI sacked 297 non–journalist employees and in future it might be the turn of journalists. It is a serious issue that journalists are becoming unemployed. According to me, we should tackle this problem. If management has sacked employees without giving prior notice then it is condemnable. Journalists try to deliver justice to other section of the society but who will deliver justice to them?”
Budding journalists are worried about entering media profession due to lack of job stability. Recurring attacks on journalists too have made them anxious about joining this profession. Many of them are worried that they too might become victims of attack and hence think about taking up another career instead of journalism. There has been a rise against attacks on journalists and India is ranked the eighth most dangerous country for press.
Lata Mishra, Assistant Editor, Mumbai Mirror said, “We have already issued a notice via Mumbai Press Club that we condemn such kind of activities. Journalists are hired on a contractual basis, in which it is clearly mentioned that the media house can terminate their contract any time. It is happening due to digitalisation and jobs are becoming uncertain. Mumbai Press Club is planning to seek assistance of legal advisors to resolve these issues. Many media houses are downsizing people as they are incurring heavy financial losses.”
According to senior journalists, there is a need for improving the work environment in media and new agencies. Better pay scale, flexible working hours, perks and other amenities can go a long way in improving the work environment. Today employees are keen to have a balance in their personal and professional lives. Employees in media have always complained about long working hours which is affecting their health and personal lives. So companies can take some steps to ease the pressure on employees by making the workplace employee friendly.
Independent Journalist, Kanchan Srivastava said, “If any journalist commit mistakes or if he takes a stand against establishment or writes against government then he is fired. I am unaware in which condition PTI sacked many staff but I am sure that journalists will be the next target. Already a renowned newspaper had sacked many employees and many newspapers have started shutting down their editions.”
“Private organisations fill up vacancies on the basis of their requirement so there is no question to downsize the organisation on the basis of financial loss incurred by the management. Everywhere due to the process of the digitalisation, organisation are sacking few employees but sacking larger staff at one time is not downsizing for sure. It may be due to change in policies or other reasons,” she added.
Meanwhile, PTI employees protested against the retrenchment of 297 employees. As per report around 80 employees have been fired from PTI’s Delhi office. The management had called police to prevent the deterioration of law and order situation due to protests. Police personnel also have been posted in the newsroom of the agency. Meanwhile the retrenched employees are planning to file a petition in Supreme Court.
Swati Ghosalkar, Journalist, Maharashtra One said, “Nowadays journalist job is uncertain. Journalist fights for justice of labours and other sections of the society but when it comes to injustice meted against journalist where should we approach?”
The Federation of PTI Employees Union had written a letter to the chief executive officer of the organisation Venky Venkatesh to protest against the illegal retrenchment of PTI employees throughout the country. PTI has already published the names of sacked employees on its website and have forwarded a mail to them informing them about their dues. Sacked employees whose name had featured in the website were prevented from entering the office. The Federation of PTI had organised a gate meeting and dharna to protest against the retrenchment. The identity card of sacked employees has been blocked to prevent them from entering the newsroom.