Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | ePaper
Wage Board for journalists must be independent or Noab must withdraw
The government has announced that a new Wage Board in former style will be announced soon without taking into account the financial crisis of the newspapers. The difficulties of the newspaper owners are easily ignored because of the nature of its constitution and its control by the government.
To be fair the Wage Board for journalists should be such as not to include other employees. They have their own arrangement for fixing their minimum wages.
It is our belief that the conscious journalists can solve their wage grievances through their unions. The income of a newspaper can be most easily known. The wages impossible for newspapers to give effect to for financial constraints will further aggravate the crisis for existence of free press financially.
General Ayub Khan, the military dictator of united Pakistan days was attracted to this idea of government initiated formation of government controlled Wage Board for journalists to keep them pleased with him.
Only the journalists of government owned trust papers and news agency of those days could get the Wage Board Awards fully implemented with government's money. For others, such Awards caused hardship and harassment. The private papers survived with the help of large private economic sector. But in Bangladesh, private sector is passing through financial crisis of its own.
We are ready to accept that the work of journalists being so special and arduous, they need special consideration for the life of the newspapers. But the Wage Board so constituted and administered by government to fix scales of salaries and benefits for the press and general workers also makes it difficult for the journalists to be treated as a special class deserving special consideration. If a Wage Board for journalist is to be formed then it has to be independent of government control for the press to remain independent.
In Bangladesh, we abandoned the government trust newspapers, but continuing with the old method of the Wage Board retaining the final say with the government. Newspapers owners who will bear the financial burden to pay are the lone minority in Wage Board.
The owners' presence on the Wage Board is a humiliation, as they have no voice worth having. We would suggest strongly that the Newspaper Owners' Association of Bangladesh, called Noab, must withdraw from the government controlled Wage Board.
The Awards given by such board were so impractical and burdensome for private newspapers that all past Awards could not be fully implemented till now. Lucky ones are the journalists in government news agency BSS who do not have to earn for the payment.
Ayub Khan went for such government controlled Wage Board for the journalists in order to make the free press difficult. We cannot have it anymore for creating tense relationship between the owners and the journalists. Besides, corrupt practices grow for obtaining false certificates of compliance.
Since the government is so generous with public money in respect of special groups, let the government give direct subsidy to journalists to make them all to enjoy higher wages.
But we must insist on a truely independent Wage Board for helping the press to survive as the independent press.
Most newspapers are terribly hard up for paying salaries regularly. Let there be a joint commission with leaders of journalists to find out the actual financial position of newspapers.
No sensible government wants to create restlessness in every area of public life.