PTI Says it Laid off Staffers to 'Protect Core Business', Journalists 'Not Affected'

A total of 297 employees were retrenched.

New Delhi: The Press Trust of India (PYI) on Wednesday admitted that it was “to ensure the continued financial health of the company and to protect its core business of producing and disseminating news” that a “retrenchment exercise became necessary” under which 297 staffers were laid off. According to the organisation, all these employees were “compensated with generous financial packages.” The management of the news agency, however, added that “no journalist was affected” in this exercise undertaken last week.

In a detailed statement, the PTI management said that “of those retrenched on September 29, 147 are attenders, 80 are from the transmission department and 70 from the engineering department. They are being compensated as per the guidelines of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, and will receive amounts ranging from Rs 28 lakh to Rs 1.09 crore,” including statutory payments of provident fund and gratuity.

Explaining the financial expediency behind the decision, the management said “over the last two decades, several functions in news organisations have become wholly redundant” and that “this had left PTI with redundant and surplus staff at a time the media industry in general is facing tremendous strain.”

Also read: Journalists’ Unions Protest Press Trust of India’s Decision to Lay Off 297 StaffersA not-for-profit company, the PTI said after the organisation implemented the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Board for journalists and non-working journalists in 2014, it had to pay arrears amounting to Rs 105 crore by dipping into its reserves. It added that last year, PTI’s news services made an operating loss of Rs 34.1 crore.

In view of this financial situation, PTI said a Voluntary Retirement Scheme was offered to employees late last year but it met with “limited success”. It then decided to move on with the retrenchment exercise.

Earlier, the decision of the PTI management to lay off 297 staffers was opposed by both the organisation’s employees federation as well as unions of journalists. While the Federation’s general secretary Balram Singh Dahiya had written on behalf of the employees that they “strongly protest the PTI management’s unilateral and unprovoked decision to illegally retrench 297 PTI employees all over India today”, the Delhi Union of Journalists had demanded that the decision be revoked at the earliest.

It had also exhorted the Union Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to “step in at this juncture to stop these anti-labour and anti-media moves”.