Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh has termed the new pay scales for journalists and other employees of the newspaper industry as unrealistic and unacceptable.
NOAB, in a statement on Tuesday, said that the 9th Newspaper Wage Board Award published in a gazette notification on September 12 did not take into consideration the opinion of the newspaper owners.
In a meeting held on Monday, NOAB termed the 9th wage board as unrealistic and said that no newspaper was capable of implementing the wage board award.
‘What is worrying is that when a writ is pending with the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the wage board formation, all scales have been increased by 80 to 85 per cent in the gazette notification, which is way above other corresponding scales in the industrial sector of the country,’ said NOAB.
The meeting was attended by Ittefaq editor Tasmima Hossain, Dainik Samakal publisher AK Azad, The Daily Star editor and publisher Mahfuz Anam, Dainik Manabzamin editor-in-chief Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, Bhorer Kagoj printer Tarik Sujat, Daily Bonik Barta editor and publisher Dewan Hanif Mahbub, The Financial Express editor Shah Husain Imam, Dainik Sangbad editor and publisher Altamash Kabir, New Age editorial board chairman ASM Shahidullah Khan and Daily Prothom Alo editor and publisher Matiur Rahman.
Although the pay scale for journalists is determined by the government formed wage board, newspaper industry had to earn by itself to meet the cost of its implementation, said the statement.
It said newspaper owners had always tried to ensure the financial security of the journalists and pay the increased salary and allowances in the past.
The newspaper industry is passing a difficult time in the history of the country, according to the statement signed by NOAB president Matiur Rahman.
‘Both circulation and income from advertisement have plummeted continually. On the other hand, government advertisement rate has always been very low. Besides, a large amount of advertisement revenue always remains pending with the government departments,’ the statement claimed.
It also added that the industry had to pay tax and VAT at every step of its operation and while it was struggling to survive many were running on subsidy from the owners or even failing to pay regularly.
Implementation of 9th wage board in this context shall only create a multifaceted crisis that the industry is incapable to solve, NOAB said, adding that over the years they had communicated this crisis verbally and in writing to the ministry of information, the wage board and the Cabinet Committee.
The statement claimed that NOAB was not against the wage board award for journalists.
‘We have requested to make it realistic both for journalists and the owners. But sadly pay scale and allowances have been increased from 80 to 85 per cent. Among the government recognised 42 industries, pay scale of 38 industries are not even nearer to the 8th wage board.’
Under the 9th Age Board, the lowest grade is BDT 35,670 while the comparable government scale is BDT 15,360 with a difference of over BDT 20,320.
NOAB pointed out the disparities among various sectors. A journalist having a bachelor or master’s degree will draw a gross salary of over BDT 67,112 in Grade 3. A government officer enters into service in grade 9 with a salary of BDT 35,600 while a university lecturer gets BDT 37,305. Having the same academic degree, a journalist will get BDT 30,000-31,000 more compared to a first-class gazetted officer. Journalists are likely to get 1.5 - 2 times higher salary compared to a gazetted officer almost in every scale. Even multinational companies fall behind in some cases.
No newspaper can pay the increased salary and allowances, they claimed.
The 9th wage board, besides increasing pay, has also raised various fringe benefits. General transport allowance has been raised by 100 per cent, professional conveyance for journalists and business professionals have been raised by 71% and 100% respectively.
There were only six grades under newspaper wage board compared to 20 for government services. In banks and insurance companies, there are 18 to 22 grades. In line with these, NOAB had proposed 18 grades for journalists, which had not been considered, the statement said.
It said a recreation leave of 30 days in every three years had been included with a net pay of one-month gross salary which, NOAB said was unknown anywhere in the government or semi-government sphere.
Under the 9th Wage Bard, house rent has been fixed at 65% of basic pay. According to Article 33(A) of the Income Tax Ordinance, house rent up to 50% is tax exempted. The remaining 15% is taxable. NOAB had therefore proposed the house rent to be fixed at 50% of the basic pay.
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