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Parliament to probe mass layoffs at Vision Group

Hon David Abala presents a petition on the closure of Etop Newspaper and asks parliament investigate reasons why regional newspapers of Vision Group have been closed and that gov’t supports the immediate reopening of the Newspaper and provide for a stimulus package. PHOTO via @Parliament_Ug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s Finance committee will start a probe into Vision Group’s recent decision to close three of its regional newspapers and examine the lay-offs which affected hundreds of their staff.

The media conglomerate runs more than 10 media units comprising Newspapers, magazines and broadcast channels namely; New Vision, Bukedde paper and Bukedde radio, Orumuri, Etop newspaper and Etop FM, Urban TV, XFM, TV West, Kampala Sun, Rupiny newspaper and Rupiny FM, among others. The entity in which the government holds a 53.3 percent shareholding employs 691 people.

However, Vision Group incorporated as the New Vision Printing and Publishing Company Limited announced salary cuts by up to 60 percent less than two months after the government announced a lockdown to contain the possible spread of coronavirus disease- COVID-19. During the same time, the company opted to close three of its regional newspapers.

A number of workers were sent on forced leave with a pay of 500,000 Shillings a month to sustain them during this period. Several others were terminated in a decision which according to the company’s chief executive Robert Kabushenga, was in response to the changed media industry circumstances. The most affected departments include editorial and sales.

Amid the tension and uncertainty, the employees petitioned the government for an intervention to save the corporation and the industry from descending into an abyss. Yesterday, Ngora County MP David Abala presented before parliament a petition by affected workers from Teso, a motion which was amended by Lilly Adong, the Nwoya Woman MP to include the other regional newspapers.

Abala told the house that the closure of Etop has made several people jobless but also created a huge information gap in Teso region.

Lilly Adong said that although the government is making most of its communication through the media, Vision Group which owns most of the media companies and also employs hundreds is laying off staff. She says the newspapers in the region are at the centre of information sharing.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal says it is disturbing to see a government media house laying off staff.

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has sent the matter to the finance committee which she tasked to seek answers from the government on why people are being laid off from their jobs yet the government itself got chunks of money to stimulate the economy.

The probe into what is happening at Vision Group starts next week. New Vision Printing and Publishing Company Limited is listed on the Uganda stock exchange with an expected turnover of over 90.2 Billion Shillings.

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