Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) has expressed concern over recommendations by the 9th Wage Board for hike in salaries and benefits for the journalists and employees of print media, says a press release.
Earlier, the government constituted the 9th wage board to propose enhanced salaries and benefits for journalists and employees in newspapers and news agencies.In a statement issued on Wednesday, NOAB said the newspaper owners are always sincere to ensure salaries and other financial benefits for journalists and employees.
The truth about their sincerity is reflected in some media houses as its owners left no stone unturned to implement the wage board recommendations.
But it is not so easy to implement it as the print media is facing the worst situation now.
Chairman of the Ninth Wage Board prepared recommendations for hiking salaries and benefits of the journalists without consulting the NOAB and submitted the same to the ministry concerned.
A ministerial committee formed to finalize the recommendations is proceeding with its task.
Earlier, the seventh and eights wage board awards were prepared without consulting the newspaper owners.Salaries of the journalists were hiked by 89.6 percent of basic salaries in the seventh wage board while it was 75 percent in the eighth wage board. The hike was so high that a few of the media houses could implement the wage board.
The new houses, which implemented the eighth wage board, will not be able to execute the ninth wage board if it is finalized as per recommendations in question.
The newspapers across the globe are hard hit by emergence of electronic and social media.
Circulation of newspaper in Bangladesh has shrunk by 8-10 percent. Earning from private advertisement has decreased by 20 percent. The advertisement market is dominated by TV, online portal, facebook and google. The newspapers are losing government advertisements also.
Besides, 15 newspapers are yet to get outstanding bill to the tune of Tk 85 crore as against government advertisements.
The print media owners are counting 26 percent landed cost including newspaper import duties and VAT.
Newspaper is perhaps the only item which costs three times higher than its sale prices.
If the ninth wage board recommendations are implemented, the print media industry will plunge into a deep crisis.
Although print media is one of the 42 industries recognized by the government, salaries and benefits of journalists and employees are abnormally higher than officials and staffs of the other sectors.
Salaries for newspaper journalists increased by 165 percent in last two wage boards, government employees by 161 percent and RMG workers by 70 percent.
As per the eighth wage board, print media houses are liable to pay salary (grade-6) Tk 20, 231 to peon, guard and gardener although government employees having similar ranks get Tk15, 350.
The lowest salary at any private organization is around Tk10,000-12,000, but the ninth wage board has proposed lowest salary (grade-6) Tk 35,670. NOAB thinks that such hike is not acceptable and reasonable at all.
A graduate or post-graduate joins as staff reporter at salary Tk 38, 073, a meritorious student joins BCS cadre service at Tk 35, 600 and a university teacher at Tk 37, 150. It means a reporter draws Tk 2,473 more than a BCS cadre officer at the outset of his/her job.
The officials of similar ranks in other corporate houses get around Tk 25,000-30,000. In such a situation, the ninth wage board proposed Tk 67,112 for a reporter (grade 3) which is not acceptable to the NOAB.
The government announces wage boards for the journalists but the newspaper owners have to bear the cost. The government does not extend any financial supports in this regard.
According to BBS and Bangladesh Bank reports, the country has witnessed inflation of 36.34% after announcement of the eight wage board for the journalists.
The media houses have to count nearly 28.80 percent salary hike including annual increment so far.
Sometimes, the media houses appoint reporters and employees at salaries higher than the amount prescribed by the wage board. NOAB considers salary hike up to 10-12% is justifiable.
The newspaper owners are counting salaries at six grades although government pays salaries to its employees at 20 grades. Most of the banks and private organizations have the opportunity to pay salaries at 18-22 grades.
According to Bangladesh Labour Law, employees of any organization are entitled to one gratuity annually but wage board for journalists proposes two gratuities.
The public servants and private employees have to pay their income tax but newspaper owners bear the brunt of income tax of their journalists.
The ninth wage board proposed 65 percent house rent although any amount of house rent exceeding 50 percent is taxable. The newspaper employees enjoy salary of one month and recreation leave for 30 days in every three years which cannot be imagined by the staffs of other industries.
Besides, responsibility, entertainment, technical, eye risk, chemical poisoning, outfit, dress and washing allowances should be obliterated from the wage board for being arbitrary.
As per schedule 2 of the VAT Act 1991, the newspaper industry should enjoy VAT exemption. In reality, newspaper houses have to pay 15 percent VAT.
The print media houses have to pay 9 percent TDS on advertisement income and raw material import although a handful of the houses make nince percent profit.
NOAB members participated in the process of wage boards in the past but they gathered bad experience. The government finally announced wage boards, turning a deaf ear to newspaper owners’ plea.
Imposing an arbitrary wage board on the newspaper owners may result in job-cut, partial or non-implementation of new hike and shut-down of many houses.
A report of Department of Films and Publications says that 158 print media outlets out of 684 across the country have implemented the eight wage board. In fact, a few of the media houses have implemented it.
NOAB hopes the government will announce a pragmatic wage board in consultation with newspaper owners and journalists.
Any unrealistic financial burden will not only put pressure on newspaper owners but also affects its employees.