As private companies fall victim to the economic fallout resulting from COVID-19, several permanent members of the editorial staff at Daily News Limited (Newsday) have been temporarily laid off.
At least three senior reporters–Seeta Persad, Carol Matroo and Marlene Augustine–were handed their letters on Friday which was signed by Human Resource Manager Debra Sutton, who advised the three-month layoff would be without pay.
It was unclear up to late Saturday, how many other members of staff were given letters.
Citing the period June 8 to August 31 in the letter, Sutton claimed if the company's economic circumstances changed within the period outlined, the employees may be recalled to work with a ten-day notice of the new date.
Failing this, Sutton informed the employees they would be recalled for confidential discussions regarding their years of service and what options were available to them.
Contacted Saturday, one of the reporters who has 11 years service with the company was very despondent.
She questioned, "Why wasn't some other option employed first? Why didn't they explore a salary reduction for employees and even managers? This way, the company could have continued employing everybody as they explore ways to turn things around. It would not have been just the select few who were given letters."
Disheartened over the move she described as cavalier, the upset employee said her years of service and duty to Newsday had been tossed aside without consideration.
She claimed the last-in-first-out policy was not being applied in this instance, as there were at least six other reporters who were hired long after her.
A second reporter who had seven years service said she was determined not to sit down and mope.
Refusing to become depressed, she indicated she would find the strength to pick up the pieces as she always did.
The company has reportedly said though the employees will not be receiving a salary during this period, but they will continue to be covered by the medical plan while pension benefits also continue to accrue.
In an interview with CNC 3, Newsday's Editor-in-Chief Judy Raymond said it was a hard hit for the company which had been on a recruitment drive prior to COVID-19.
Claiming Newsday had managed to maintain high standards during the pandemic by allowing reporters to work from home, she said their online readership had also increased.
At least two of the reporters have indicated their intention to seek legal advice on the matter.
Meanwhile, the workers' representative–the Bankers Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU–plans to take action against Newsday for violating Sections 40 and 63 of the Industrial Relations Act.
BIGWU officials said the company has repeatedly resisted requests to provide its financial information and the criteria used to select staff to be laid off. An official said this meant the parties were unable to engage in any kind of informed discussions.