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Over paid workers, underpaying employers

Firing Fat Boy, hiring Salvador and the other side of the COVID-19 induced pandemic of lay-offs and pay cuts

COMMENT | JOSEPH WERE | Did I just lose my job to a 100-year old woman?

Dawn Silver, a young female morning radio drive show DJ says exactly that at the very moment she loses her job to Harriet Lauler played by the Hollywood icon Shirley MacLaine in the movie ‘Last Word.’

It’s an unfunny scene from a comedy drama to be reminded of in this era of unexpected loss of employment. The DJs job, it says, (as with everything), has become all business. So music mixing computers have replaced theDJs.

I could not help wondering what James Onen aka Fat boy would make of that storyline since he became the public face of workers who have lost jobs they have taken for granted for years; 21-years in Fat Boy’s case.

I personally felt the pain of Fat Boy not being on air when I switched stations because my car radio was spewing incomprehensible stuff in noisy comedy fashion instead of the composed conversational voice I was familiar with. Suddenly 88.2 Sanyu FM is no longer Sanyu FM for me.

There are those that welcomed the switch. Some say at 44 years, Fat Boy was over-age for a station that appeals to young listeners. I am older and avidly tuned in. His replacement, Patrick Salvador Idringi, was a 14-year old lad when Fat Boy made his radio hosting debut in 1999.  So far the current affairs updates have been off, the music jarring, and the new host’s worldview smoky.

Everyone eventually leaves their coveted job. The difference is who makes that decision; you, circumstances, or your employer. And chopping workers or their pay is not peculiar to Sanyu FM. Businesses are hurting under the impact of COVID-19. Even established businesses like Mengo Hospital have cut staff salaries because of slow business.

A report based on a survey of businesses released in May by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) showed that small and medium businesses have been the most hit. Many said they could close shop if the COVID-19 crisis persists for just three more months. About 3.8 million workers could lose their jobs temporarily while 0.6 million could lose their employment permanently; especially in the Kampala area.

Do hard economic times mean Mengo Hospital should layoff a neurosurgeon who earns Shs15 million a month and retain an intern doctor who earns Shs500,000? In the Sanyu FM case, Fat Boy is no neurosurgeon but he has 21 years of business memory packed in his lean frame. Do you just hurl that out of the window?

Unfortunately, many of these management decisions are being made based more on herd mentality, speculation and imitation and less on imagination and calculation. There is no strategy, vision, or mission. Just dismissing workers or cutting their salary simply because you can and the other business did so is managerial suicide.

As former U.S. President Barack Obama said recently: “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing.”

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