Unpaid employees troop to Labour Commissioner; management alleges staff sabotage

Faced with a severe financial crunch and labour problems, the management of the Kannada news channel Samaya News 24x7 has declared a lockout. Its 315 employees are now virtually on the streets. In a complaint to the Labour Commissioner on Thursday, they said they were not allowed in when they reported for work in the morning.

Samaya, launched by incumbent Excise Minister Satish Jarkiholi in June 2010, has been unable to pay its employees for several months now. Mr. Jarkiholi told The Hindu he no longer had any control over the affairs of the channel.

The decision to enforce a lockout came after employees registered at least 110 complaints against the management at the Cubbon Park police station for non-payment of wages.

Struggling to stay afloat

The lockout comes at a time when many Kannada news channels, particularly those owned by political personalities, are struggling to stay afloat. One, promoted by a politician who had brief links with the BJP, has not been able to pay its employees for at least four months, forcing the editor to join a rival channel.

Confirming the lockout, the channel’s CEO K.M. Manjunath told The Hindu it was “only temporary”. “Not only will we bounce back but we will also be undertaking a major technology upgrade and launching a brand new entertainment channel as well.”

The mood was not so upbeat at the Labour Commissioner’s office where nearly 100 employees had gathered. Several said they had not been able to pay their rent, phone bills, premiums and EMIs. “I have creditors knocking on my door every day,” said a distraught senior journalist.

The employees have accused the channel’s managing director and industrialist Sachin Narayan as well as Mr. Manjunath of embezzlement. While Mr. Narayan was not available for comment, Mr. Manjunath said the channel had been sabotaged by a section of the employees who were on the payroll of competitors.

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