The bloodbath has begun in Indian media in right earnest, no thanks to #Coronavirus. What was expected to mostly affect print media—Indian Express, Business Standard, et al–has begun to impact digital and electronic media too.
Times of India has let go of its entire magazine section staff; News Nation has sacked its English digital team; H.D. Kumaraswamy‘s TV channel Kasturi has shut.
The website Quint is reported to have asked nearly half its staff to go on “furlough”—leave without pay–with this supercilious note which magnanimously waives the “non-compete” clause.
“You are part of a fantastic team. Our work, over the last 5 years, has been appreciated for its courage, integrity, innovation, sheer quality. Apart from doing splendid work, our Newsroom has a reputation for being fair, a place where good work is recognized and rewarded, a Newsroom where team spirit reigns.
“But we are not immune to the real world around us. The last 2 years and more, have already seen a grinding economic slowdown in India. The Quint dealt with that robustly, continuing to push barriers in enterprise story-telling, setting benchmarks in genres like fact-checking, citizen journalism, multi-media story-telling, constantly building team strength and team skills.
“And now, we are faced with a truly unprecedented situation.
“First, there is a massive health crisis. An illness with no cure, that even Europe and the US are struggling to cope with. Over the next few weeks whether India will fare poorly in the face of COVID-19, or miraculously survive, no one can say right now.
Second, the scale of shutdown and lockdown that #CoronaPandemic has prompted, puts us all in the eye of an economic storm. That is the unprecedented double whammy. We’ve never seen a world where consumer spending is down by over 50%, where wealth and asset values built over years, have been ravaged in a matter of days. We simply have no idea where this could end.
“In these circumstances, it is clear that our revenues will be under severe strain over the next 3-4 months, at least. During this time, The Quint’s primary objectives should be: a) For everybody to stay healthy. b) For our young operation to survive this period and live to fight another day. That can happen if we take emergency actions, measures only used in the ‘rarest of rare’ situations, measures that may constrain us all, but may also help us stay afloat at a time like this.
In your specific case:
# We are forced to request you to proceed on a “furlough” (ie, Leave Without Pay, LWP) wef the 15th of April, until further notice. Your pay for the half-month, from April 1 through 15, shall be processed and released very soon.
# In order to avail further cash assistance, you can request for an advance equal to one month’s salary. Once your request is received, HR will process that immediately and release it as soon as possible.
# Through the period of “furlough”, the company’s medical insurance plan shall remain fully applicable to you and your family.
# In case you wish to draw additional cash from your EPF account, the HR department will assist you in doing that as per the recent policy announcement made by the central government.
“Finally, through this very tough period, we shall relax the “exclusivity” and “non-compete” obligations in your employment contract. Accordingly, you shall be free to take on free-lance work, including from our direct competitors.
“Please do understand that we are not happy to have made the above decision – but equally, please also remember that “hope” is not a plan. We cannot just hope or wish for this crisis to abate. We have to act, so that together we can survive. It’s a challenge we simply have to take head on.
“We remain immensely grateful to you.”