The Times of India has laid off 13 journalists in Kerala, sources associated with the newspaper confirmed. As of Tuesday, seven people in different editions are known to have been intimated of the contract termination via video calls. It is not confirmed if more employees have received these calls. Other than this, 12 staff members from the circulation department and a few members from the marketing team too have been asked to leave.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown had begun nearly two months ago, many media organisations have been resorting to cost-cutting measures, including laying off employees and cutting down salaries. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said in one of his press meets that media organisations should not resort to such practices during the lockdown. Media has been one of the essential services functioning throughout the lockdown period.
One of the reporters, with several years of experience, spoke to TNM about losing the job with TOI. “Even before the lockdown, there were talks of moving to a smaller office as part of cost-cutting measures. However, the paper had achieved its target in the last financial year, as revealed by the figures in March 2020,” the reporter said.
It is believed that editions in Kottayam, Thrissur and Malabar will shut down operations by the end of May, and the staff members of these editions will be asked to resign.
Most of the reporters being laid off have, reportedly, not been given a warning beforehand. “In my case, I learnt of the development only a few days ago through outside sources. It seems the press, where the paper is printed, has been told that there will be no edition from June 1, which should naturally mean that the paper is shutting down the edition in our region. I asked someone senior about this and the person admitted that there was such a move and several bureaus have been asked to give a list of employees who could be laid off,” the reporter said.
The official call, which they expected this week, came on Tuesday, the reporter said. “There is no time to serve a notice period. If there was a notice period, there would at least be a little time to prepare oneself for the sudden termination of a job. We should get one month’s salary and privilege dues up to 30 days as per the contract, and this has been promised in the call. Even if you had anticipated such a move, there is a huge difference between anticipation and reality.”