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The News Minute | February 15, 2015 | 3.59 pm IST A group of employees of Kasturi and Sons Limited, whose flagship publications include The Hindu newspaper and Frontline magazine have raised several objections to the proposed move by the management from the wage board system of remuneration to an in-house wage system, and claim that they are not being given any information regarding the same. On January 17 this year, the management sent letters to all employees asking them to switch over to the KSL Wage structure and give an answer by January 23. The email included a worksheet which provided a break-up of the salary structure under the new system. In the letter, the management said that the shift was voluntary, but some employees say that there are several issues which need to be addressed before employees can make an informed decision. A set of questions sent by The News Minute to the editor of The Hindu Malini Parthasarathy went unanswered. Employees wrote to the board, on January 21, the day a meeting was scheduled to take place. In the letter, a copy of which is available with The News Minute, employees said that the “extreme haste” with which the management was proceeding was “particularly worrying because the HR leadership was unable to answer in concrete terms several questions that were raised by employees from several centres across the country during the last 10 days”. Among the main concerns raised in the letter was the alleged lack of clarity in the proposed KSL system and the supporting systems such as the performance appraisal mechanisms. Employees said that the worksheet of the proposed wage structure contained no “clarity” on how the individual components of the salary such as the HRA, variable pay allowances and others would be calculated. It also contained no “indication of the trajectory of income streams that would accrue to employees in the future in the KSL regime”. They also said that the management was asking employees to switch over to the new scheme even though the contours of the performance-linked scheme were “not finalized” by the HR’s own admission. They also said that the adoption of a performance-linked scheme was “deeply flawed” for several reasons. These employees said that the profession of journalism could not be linked with revenue generation: “First, the newspaper industry is very different from other industries, which seems to have served as the basis for the move by the HR leadership. More critically, working journalists in The Hindu Group, to the best of my knowledge, play no revenue-generating function (of course, this may be possible in a “paid news” system). How are journalists responsible for roles that are completely outside the pale of their journalistic responsibilities?" a source said. But author of The Indian Media Business Vanita Kohli-Khandekar has a different view. When asked about KSL wage structure, she said: “Most good news media organisations in this country pay more than the wage board norms because they try to match salaries to what employees to could get elsewhere in the private sector. So the whole worry about KSL going outside of the norm seems misguided. Why is it assumed that they will pay less? And in any free, competitive market why not let the market set the price, why do we need a wage board?” Employees said that the the HR department could not specify what proportion of weightage would be given to the performance of the individual, the department and the organization as a whole when computing the performance-linked pay component. They added: “There is also the question of how transparently information on the company’s performance would be available (KSL, you will appreciate, being a closely held company, has limits on what it is obliged to statutorily divulge).” Employees also said that the organization did not have a “transparent and verifiable” performance appraisal system in place and that the system currently in place was “rather young”. Concerns were also raised about what would happen to those who did not shift to the KSL system. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar was however of the view that it would have a positive effect on the quality of journalism: “You pay good salaries you attract the best brains. Good Journalists have left the profession in droves because salaries do not always compensate for the effort and times that good quality content demands. The content and salary costs of many newspapers are lower than what they pay the marketing or ad sales staff.” The salaries of journalists in many large news organizations were defined by the wage boards set up by the government of India since the 1950s. The last such wage board – the Majithia wage board which submitted its recommendations in 2010 – was constituted by the government in 2007. News organizations may choose to follow the remuneration structure specified by the wage board, or may have a system of its own. Over the years, many large news organizations have shifted to remuneration systems of their own. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute
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