“Worst may be yet to come”: As COVID tears the world, ‘Indian Express’ moots 10-30% salary cut for employees, warns of “more sacrifices” if things do not improve

The Coronavirus pandemic is spreading across newsrooms and board rooms battling advertising and revenue shortfall.

Below is the full text of the letter sent by Indian Express CEO George Varghese.

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Subject: Challenging times

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My dear colleagues, my Express family:

Before going even a word further, Thank You.

To each one of you, across the Express Group, for underlining the best of times in the worst of times.

Working for The Express Group gives me a high but this last week has been an absolute privilege. The chaos the coronavirus has set off in our offices and your response has made me aware, more deeply than ever, that at the Express Group, the work we do, towards fulfilling our mission of journalism of courage, is more than just a professional commitment.

It defines who we are as a people, as an institution.

It’s this which gives me the strength to believe that we shall overcome this unprecedented crisis that has touched everything: our lives, our homes, the safety of our loved ones, our neighborhood, and our newspapers

As our reporters are telling us each day, follow the science, and I am very confident that India and the world will prevail over the virus. But it’s the economic impact of the disruption which will linger for a long time, playing out in ways we aren’t even aware of.

It’s here that I am reaching out to you.

The Express Group is more than a news organisation. It is an institution, the mainstay of independent media in India for over eight decades. We stand on the shoulders of the greats who weathered many a crisis and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do the same for our future — and the future of this great institution.

The commitment that you have shown in the past one week has been inspirational. Despite the countless logistical challenges, our colleagues in Editorial, Marketing, Advertising, Administration, Circulation, Press, Production, IT, Scheduling, GFML, BPD, IEOMSPL (our digital company) have moved whatever needed moving to ensure that our newspapers are out each morning, our online is live 24×7.

Yet, we have not been able to reach all our readers.

Vendors are insecure, RWAs are insecure, the rail, road and air lockdown has grounded distribution, businesses are shut down, we have been compelled to reduce print orders in all centres – this is absolutely unprecedented.

Our advertising revenues have been hit hard and all available evidence shows the worst may be yet to come. It is also tragic because the very essence of our mission is to make sense of chaotic times. To bring sober, fact-checked reports, to be the voice of reason amid the alarm bells, to our loyal readers.

That’s why we must stand tall and together to overcome this – and we will stand tall and together to overcome this.

As a first step, all of us will have to take the difficult decision to agree to take a temporary salary cut from today. I have no doubt at all that you are all with me.

The proposed reduction is as follows

Salary slab: Salary cut

Below 5 Lakh: 0%

5 lakh to 7.5 lakh: 10%

7.5 lakh to 10 lakh: 15%

10 lakh to 20 lakh: 20%

20 lakh to 35 lakh: 25%

Above 35 lakh: 30%

Nothing will make me happier than to propose to you to withdraw this salary cut, the moment we turn the corner but what worries me is that if the situation continues this proposed reduction in salary will also not be enough for us to see through this crisis.

I have been having discussions on the situation with our Chief Editor Raj Kamal Jha and must say that although we both consider ourselves as optimists, both of us think there is a high probability of it taking time, so both of us have decided to take a 100 percent salary cut. The Chairman Viveck Goenka, Anant Goenka and Vaidehi Thakkar have also said that they will take a 100 per cent salary cut.

If the situation does not improve I will have no choice but request all of you to make more sacrifices.

There are two posters in our offices that I find myself stopping at, repeatedly, to reflect on our mission and the role of The Indian Express in our society.

One is, of course, the blank editorial during the Emergency, a small rectangle of white space. The other is a headline to an editorial by Ramnath Goenka: “Heart Strings and Purse Strings.”

The first shows that at the Express, we will always have an answer to those who threaten us, be it powerful men and women or any challenge thrown at us.

The second is a reminder that at the Express, it will always be the heart of the institution that shall protect its purse.

I am appealing to your heart to fight together to withstand this crisis

Thank you once again, please stay safe, I wish you and yours the very best.

Regards

George Varghese

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