Employees of Uganda’s privately-owned radio station 88.2 Sanyu protested a 25% salary cut by staging a strike something that didn’t go down well with the top management of the station and owner Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia.
Irked by their industrial action, a no-nonsense Sudhir sacked all employees on Wednesday and commenced a recruitment drive that saw comedian Patrick Idrigi aka Salvado become the newest employee at the station.
Salvado replaced long-serving Jame Onen as host of the flagship Sanyu FM Breakfast show that airs every morning between 6 am and 10 am; the funnyman started work on Thursday. Onen had been at the station for 21 years.
In an interview with CEO East Africa on Thursday, Sudhir said that by laying down their tools and absconding from work, employees of the radio station terminated their own contracts and in effect sacked themselves. He said firing them was inevitable given the business circumstances.
“We made a business decision to cost-cut so as to make the business sustainable and protect jobs. We offered to talk and negotiate a solution but they instead chose to lay down their tools. They terminated themselves,” Ruparelia told the CEO.
Adding: “When you lay down the tools, you have broken contract and terminated yourself. The company has contracts on advertising and is actually making losses. If you have a contract and you stop doing that which you promised to do in the contract and you are absconding from work, in essence, you have terminated your own contract of employment,”.
He explained that between March and April when the Covid-19 and the restrictive measures put in place by the government started biting the radio station’s earnings, a meeting recommended the adoption of cost-cutting measures so as to make the businesses sustainable and protect jobs.
“Management asked us to hold the salary revisions until May because they said they would put in place strategies to halt the revenue reductions. But by the beginning of May, it was evident that the revenues were not recovering. Revenues had gone down by as much as 50%, thus the decision to cost-cut and that included a 25% salary revision for staff,”
“However, the staff unilaterally rejected the decision and wrote to management and myself. We reverted to them and in a June 5th letter, asked them for a meeting on June 11th at 09 am but unfortunately, the staff instead laid down their tools and refused to meet- that meeting would have taken place today at 09 am but unfortunately staff did not allow that to happen,”
“While we understand their disappointment with the salary cuts it is also important that they understand the business perspective of our decision. By laying down their tools, they even made the bad situation worse. Every day they are not working the business is losing even the little advertising revenue that we have on existing advertising contracts.”
“Some employees had become arrogant thinking that the station can’t work without them. I think we were very fair in trying to make them understand that the company is not making money,” the businessman said.
In an interview with Daily Monitor, Rajiv Ruparelia, the managing director of Ruparelia Group, a conglomerate under which 88.2 Sanyu FM falls, said that the sacked employees who want to return to work at the station should reapply for their jobs after apologizing.
Appearing on KFM, a local radio station, James Onen, said claims that they were protesting a pay cut were false. Onen explained that it was the initiative by their line managers who drafted a letter of displeasure at the deductions and made each of the staff to sign against it, adding that being managers, the staff complied and signed with a mind that perhaps they (line managers) have leeway with the owners of the company.
“I want to set the record straight, it is not true whatsoever that the staff rejected the pay cut, this narrative is false. We had been anticipating that there could be a pay cut and we were bracing ourselves for it. It finally happened but we were not notified in writing or in any way, we only realized when we looked at our payslips and saw that the money had been cut by 25 per cent, we just moved on with work and only hoped things would improve,” Onen said.
“We were still showing up to work and were still working, so it’s not true that we refused to work because of the salary cut. I think am being scapegoated in this case. My immediate supervisor called me one evening and told me not to work the next day, he said it was a step taken until the matter is resolved and that is how we did not work, only to be shocked by an accusation that I was absconding from duty, how?” he added.