Kampala, Uganda | URN | MPs have tasked government to explain a recent decision by the management of Vision Group, the publishers of New Vision and Bukedde newspaper to cut staff salaries over coronavirus pandemic. Government is the majority shareholder in the company with 53 per cent shareholding.
The pay cuts, which take effect this month, were announced in communication made last week by the Group chief executive officer Robert Kabushenga, indicating that for the first time in 16 years,’ the management has taken drastic measures to reduce the wage bill, as a measure to keep the business viable.
According to the communication, staff earning above Shs 19 million will get a 60 per cent pay cut, those earning between Shs 8 million and Shs 19 million will take a 45 per cent cut while those earning below Shs 8 million will take a 40 per cent salary cut.
Nwoya Woman MP Adong Lilly questioned why an entity in which government is the majority shareholder is reducing staff salaries at a time when journalists are serving the nation during the lockdown and demanded government intervention to save the staff.
Margaret Rwabushaija, a Workers representative in parliament wondered why Vision Group is cutting salaries yet it has benefited from several government COVID-19 funds. She said that Vision Group was setting a bad example for other companies.
“The New Vision benefited from the COVID-19 fund because they got a cushion fund and it was expected that they would be using that fund in order to run that organisation for a period of time during this time. It is so unfortunate that even after getting the cushion fund, what they thought about was to deduct the salaries of the workers. And they are setting a bad precedence because if it is owned by government and they are deducting what will other organisations do?,” said Rwabushaija.
Vision Group, a government parastatal recently benefited from Shs 15 billion for the printing of transport stickers a project under the ministry of Works and Transport. The company also benefited from Shs 12 billion meant for printing learning materials by the ministry of Education and another Shs 1 billion from the ministry of Information, Communication and Technology towards the fight against coronavirus. The company also offers printing services to public and private organizations.
David Bahati, the minister of Finance for Planning said that his ministry had received the salary reduction information and that he had engaged the CEO who confirmed that in April, the publication revenue had reduced by over 50 per cent. Bahati, however, said that despite challenges in the income, the government was engaging the management to see how the government can intervene.
“The group is facing some little bit of difficulties and they are thinking about how to restructure and keep afloat. We’re taking this matter with the Vision Group but he [CEO] also confirmed to me that this will be done in accordance [with] the law. But we’re taking this matter with Vision Group to see if there is anything we can do in the meantime but they are facing problems of revenue sales and therefore they are trying to restructure the group to see how they can move forward,” said Bahati.