The New Vision, seems to have completely failed to get its human resource department in order, prompting a flurry of employee complaints and public vitriol.
In its efforts to assuage the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen advertising revenues plummet, the media organisation has embarked on a restructuring scheme which is being undertaken in total disregard of its employees’ rights.
The latest show of this state of quagmire is a complaint that has been filed with the labour officer at Kampala Capital City Authority ( KCCA) by one of the news paper’s reporters Mr. James Andate Okanya.
” This in turn [ has] dampened morale and imposed on the employees a toxic working environment characterised by employer-employee distrust, mass hysteria, panic, emotional distress, and fear of job loss thereby forcing many vulnerable and unsuspecting employees to cut to their detriment” Mr Okanya’s complaint reads in part.
Through his lawyer, Mr. Isaac Ssemakadde, the celebrated human rights and public interest litigator, Mr. Okanya decries New Vision’s move to change his status from that of a permanent employee to that of a temporary one and whose Job Description is undisclosed.
It should be noted that all this is being done without notifying the employees and the company has imposed tight deadlines in which to sign the contracts denying the employees enough time to consider their options, let alone to seek independent legal advice.
The new contracts have also been drafted in a highly technical, complex language that can not easily be understood by the employees who most likely are not well versed with legal terminologies.
Mr. Okanya further accuses New Vision of opaqueness, discrimination and exploitative behavior. For example, he says the media organisation has concealed the criteria being followed in setting contract durations, job titles, wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions.
” In some cases, employees who were due for retirement were given new fixed term contracts which should have been subjected to fair competition in accordance with [ New Vision’s] Human Resource policies ” He says.
By undertaking the restructuring in its current manner, the New Vision has not only interrupted its employee’s continuity of service but created a spiral effect where by the tax man, URA and NSSF risk losing revenues and contributions.
This is not the first time that New Vision’s inconsiderate employment practices have been highlighted.
At the height of the Coronavirus lockdown last year, the Company moved to axe employees’ salaries by up to 60%.
” The recent downturn requires even more stiff measures to keep the business valuable. This necessitates that for the first time in 16 years management has to take drastic measures to reduce the wage bill ” The company said at the time.
The salary cuts sparked outrage with many including Members of Parliament questioning the sweeping decision given the fact that the media house dominates government advertising and printing contracts.
Cabinet reportedly halted the decision but that did not stop employees’ woes with some questioning the company’s management styles. Early this month, then CEO Robert Kabushenga was reportedly fired with employee handling and complaints cited as one of the reasons.