By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Hard times are here for the Nigeria media as managements of some organisations have announced measures to remain in business due to the effect of COVID-19 on the industry.
The measure includes lay off of staff, leave without pay, salary slash and shut down of some services.
Already The PunchNewspaper, Television Continental (TVC), AIM Group (owners of Nigeria Info, Cool FM, Wazobia and Arewa radio), and The Nation Newspapers have communicated their decisions and plans to their staff.
There is apprehension in the media organisations and even some that are yet to disclose their decisions as staff are not sure of their fate.
Below are the related memos and reports about the COVID-19 induced decision
THE PUNCH: THESE TRYING TIMES AND THE DAYS AHEAD- MD
In the words of Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try men’s souls”. The highly contagious COVID-19 virus, which began its journey in Wuhan, China is travelling the world, leaving death and destruction in its trail.
This virus has upended all aspects of human life. Schools have been shut, businesses shuttered, airports and borders closed, congregational worship halted, and human and vehicular traffic severely restricted.
While it is indeed true that the myriad challenges besetting our industry predate this pandemic, this crisis has accentuated existing challenges and catalysed new ones. The UK Guardian has rightly described the crisis confronting newspaper businesses as an ‘unprecedented existential challenge”.
In Nigeria, the challenge that this crisis poses to our industry and company is unprecedented in scale, uncommon in scope and unparalleled in the annals of the journalism profession.
In several respects, this challenge bears similarities to the diverse firestorms that shaped the PUNCH brand and its emergence as Nigeria’s most socially-conscious and most- successful journalism brand.
At different times, our newspapers and journalists have been at the receiving end of the worst kinds of extra-judicial abuses from the military and the police; executive lawlessness and power-mongering; illegal arrest and detention of our journalists; threats by terrorist groups; attempts by successive governments to cut off our revenue flows; and the closure of our company, by military regimes, for months on end.
PUNCH weathered all these storms by the mercies of God, the farsightedness of its board, the uncommon courage of its journalists, the exemplary commitment of its staff and our company’s unshakable fidelity to the highest ethos of the journalism profession.
However, as your leader and colleague, and a party and witness to the many principled battles that our newspaper has won since its inception, I can say with the benefit of hindsight, that this existential crisis is different from previous ones.
This pandemic has dealt our business telling and severe blows. Our circulation and advertisement revenues dipped dangerously, compounding the operational and revenue challenges birthed by the migration of a majority of print newspaper readers and adverts to digital platforms.
Our company has a well-earned reputation for confronting operational challenges headlong. We constantly innovate and reinvent to sustain our position as Nigeria’s No. 1 newspaper, offline and online and we will continue to do so.
Before the pandemic, the company’s broad reengineering plan was well underway. The pace of implementation will increase to complement the recent proactive measures that the company has put in place to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our health and operations.
I am not at liberty to disclose all of the measures that the management has taken so far. But the ones that could be made public include an immediate reduction in print pagination; staff furloughing to comply with government and expert advisories on social distancing; the temporary shutdown of the sports newspaper; and significant financial reengineering.
The board and management will continue to explore the best ways to stay ahead of the curve, while also protecting and advancing the interests of the company’s critical stakeholders, particularly our staff.
As things stand, there is no ground to believe that the revenue situation will improve in the short-term. All projections point at a bleak and uncertain future for our industry and the economy. Notwithstanding, the company’s commitment to the welfare of its staff remains cardinal, hence, the decision to pay 100% salaries in the month of April and fulfil all annual leave obligations, despite the dip in revenues. All staff, including our colleagues, asked to stay away from work in April, have been paid their full salaries.
Our efforts in this regard were aimed at shielding our staff from the adverse impact of this unexpected crisis and to also appreciate the extraordinary commitment of those staff who braved sundry health hazards to keep our operations going during the full lockdown.
In the days ahead, the company will be exploring additional ways to keep our business afloat and thriving. While we do so, we shall take due cognisance of the interest of staff, the threats to our industry and the tremors within the Nigerian economy. However, one thing is certain: the company will have to adjust all facets of its operations to reflect the realities of these trying times. Such adjustments are imminent and inevitable.
The decision of the authorities to relax the lockdown in the epicentres of our operations, Lagos and Abuja is noted, nevertheless, the measures put in place to shield the company and its staff from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and associated health hazards shall stay in place. The Administration department will keep you abreast of future developments and decisions.
In the meantime, keep safe, keep informed and stay healthy.
AIMS GROUP: Management understands everyone’s plight at this time but our hands are tied
NIGERIA INFO, COOL FM, WAZOBIA. AREWA
Trust you are all fine and keeping safe?
As we are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has been around for almost two months and the aftermath has been the total Lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and the FCT which has affected all our lives and businesses in general.
In the wake of this pandemic, a couple of our staff had to sacrifice time with their families and loved ones to stay back in the office to ensure business remained a going concern. Others have had to work remotely from their homes and some have been home not working due to no fault of theirs. You have all indeed acted gallantly in these uncertain times and the Management of AIM Group appreciates you all for the part taken in ensuring business continuity. Thank you all!
In line with the Federal Government’s announcement of the framework of gradually easing lockdown measures in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States effective Monday, May 4, 2020, which allows for companies to resume back to work, howbeit skeletally, the Management of AIM Group has had to weigh a lot of options that can be taken during this trying times to minimize the negative impact the pandemic has had on our operations, ensure the majority of our staff are retained while still meeting up with financial obligations to you our highly esteemed employees, suppliers and other stakeholders and has reached a very difficult position of placing all staff who are currently at home, not working since the commencement and who will not be working now that skeletal services will be commencing on a Furlough (unpaid leave) until things normalize. This means that while staff who are home now and not working remain our staff, they will not be paid salaries for the period not worked and until they are recalled back to the office.
Furthermore, staff who will be working from home should note that they are to submit their daily activity reports as agreed with their line managers/HOD’s copying the HR Officers on a daily basis while the AIM Engineers submit their timesheets on a weekly basis.
Management understands everyone’s plight at this time but our hands are tied and we will not hesitate to review this position taken as soon as the economy of the company improves.
The Management of AIM Group thank you all for your understanding and hereby encourage you all keep safe while at home.
Head, Human Resources
NB: Although no mention was made of staff layoff, no fewer than 25 persons have been disengaged from the employment of the organisation across the country during the lockdown
TVC: SALARY SLASH ACROSS BOARD
The Chief Executive Officer of Television Continental (TVC) Andrew Hanlon has reportedly announced slash of salaries of staff of the organization to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus on the media sector.
In a broadcast message to the staff on Monday Hanlon stated as follows:
“Broadcasters across the world are battling with losses. In order to save jobs and not lay off any staff, I regret to inform you that we’ve been forced to reduce our pay.
“ Staff earning N80,000 will get a 5% reduction, those earning between N80,000 and N200,000 will get a 10% cut.
“Senior staff earning between N200,000 and N400,000 will get 15 per cent while those earning N400 thousand to N1 million will get a 20 per cent reduction.
“The management team and director get 25% cut while the CEO also gets a reduction.
“ Pension, transport, accommodation allowances remain the same without any cut.
THE NATION: PAY CUT
The management has already met with the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) chapel official to discuss the financial situation of the company and the need for a pay cut to sustain its operations.
It was agreed that there will be a percentage reduction based on the salary scale of the staff with the junior staff parting with the least and management the highest.
The staff are eagerly awaiting their April salary to know exactly how much they will have to sacrifice until the financial situation of the company improves.