New Delhi, May 14: Indian Express Newspapers Workers Union has been sitting on an indefinite hunger strike from May 12, in front of the IE Building demanding implementation of the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board.
Majithia Board was constituted by the government of India to look into wages for the working journalists and non-journalists newspaper employees, whose recommendations were accepted by the government on October 25,2011. This was further notified on November 11, 2011 in the Gazetteof India. However, the Indian Newspaper Society, association of newspaper owners, challenged this in Supreme Court of India.
On February 7th, 2014 Chief Justice P Sathasivam on behalf of a three-member bench dismissed the contention of the INS and said the concept of ‘variable pay’ contained in the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission has been incorporated into the Wage Board recommendations to ensure that the wages of the newspaper employees are on a par with employees of other sectors. Such incorporation was made by the Majithia Wage Board after careful consideration, in order to ensure equitable treatment to employees of newspaper establishments, and itwas well within its rights to do so.
Supreme Court had further ordered the owners to pay their employees the wages as revised / determined by the wage board payable from November 11,2011, when the Government of India notified the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board. All the arrears up to March 2014 would be paid to the eligible persons in four equal installments within a period of one year. The revised wages were to become payable from April 2014.
However, many of the newspapers have not implemented the order and forced workers to take the route of struggle. Workers of the Indian Express have been sitting on an indefinite hunger strike demanding that the recommendations of the Majithia Board are implemented as per the order of SC. However, in a clear case of contempt the Express Group Management has refused to do so.
NAPM supports the struggle of the workers of Indian Express, who have come out openly and challenged the management. We have also learnt that workers in other major newspapers have also been denied their wages in accordance with the Majithia Board recommendations.
It is to be noted that the order impacts a large number of workers and their families given that India has more than 70,000 newspapers and over 690 satellite channels (more than 80 are news channels) and is the biggest newspaper market in the world – over 100 million copies sold each day.
Like in every sector today the newspaper industry employs a large number of workers oncontract, making them vulnerable and taking away their right to wage a battle against the management. It is the same fear of losing their jobs, which has prevented many to come out in open and challenge the newspaper industry. Majithia Board has made recommendations for the contractual as well as permanent staff too, which are yet to see it implementation.
We support the demand of the journalists and non-journalists who have often taken up the people’s issues, at times, going against the increasing corporate control of media, thereby limiting the freedom and independence of media. We urge the management of the media houses to implement these recommendations and also demand that government take action against those who violate the labour norms and refuse to implement the recommendations.
It is extremely unfortunate that media, considered as fourth pillar of democracy, refuses to abide by the SC guidelines and also violate the rights of their own workers. It is nothing but another indication of the growing influence of the business houses and their greed for profit which is driving the media business today, pushing corporate agenda and restricting the space for people’s issues.
As we stand in solidarity with the struggle of the workers of the various newspaper, we also demand them to join our struggle for a fair and independent media today, which will stand for the democratic values as enshrined in the Constitution.
MedhaPatkar, Dr. Sunilam, Prafulla Samantara, Arundhati Dhuru, GabrieleDietrich, Suniti S R, Suhas Kolhekar, Saraswati Kavula, C RNeelkandan, Kamyani Swami, Mahendra Yadav, Sister Celia, Krishnakant,Anand Mazgaonkar, Vilas Bhongade, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Vimal Bhai,Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar, Seela M