Hundreds of ex-staffers of businessman Anil Ambani owned-business news channel BTVI have approached the labour officer in Mumbai on Thursday, seeking intervention in the “matter” regarding non-payment of salaries and statutory dues.
In an abrupt move, the Ambani-owned channel had announced closing down of all operations on August 31, 2019 without any prior notice and payment of statutory dues and salaries to the employees.
The intervention letter, which is in the possession of National Herald, has been sent to the labour department via Krantikari Kamgar Union (KKU) on 4 February 2020.
It may be recalled that five months after the channel went off air, hundreds of ex-staffers including many senior journalists had also sent a “letter of demand” to the management and vice-chairman of the company Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, seeking wages and dues.
“However, the management of the company did not pay any heed to our demands. Concerns raised by us fell in deaf years,” said a senior journalist who had worked with the channel for years.
The letter that had been shot off to Jhunjhunwala against “the illegal enclosure of the channel,” demanded wages from back date with the annual interest.
“All the concerned employees be reinstated and paid their full back wages and other consequential benefits from August 31 along with the interest at the rate of 18 per cent per annum,” read the letter.
Ex-staffers of the channel have also blamed the management for not letting them enter their workplace.
“The concerned employees have been illegally denied access to their workplace,” says the letter which is in the possession of the National Herald.
The employees also claimed to have had a meeting with the editor of the channel, Siddharth Zarabi, at the Mumbai office in this regard.
“Mr. Zarabi met some concerned employees in the above-mentioned office and assured them that their dues would be cleared as soon as possible. This assurance has also been captured on audio,” the letter said.
NH contacted Zarabi – a known sympathizer of the Modi government – on 21 February 2020, seeking his response about the issues raised by the ex-staffers of the channel and sent him a questionnaire on WhatsApp, but he has not replied so far. We will include his response as and when he replies.
An ex-employee of the channel who wanted to remain anonymous, blamed Zarabi for “striking a deal with the management”. Calling him a “compromised soul,” the journalist said, “Zarabi had ditched his colleagues.”
A Mumbai based ex-staffer, Kushal Thakur, who was heading the team of camerapersons in Mumbai took to Twitter to raise the issue.
On February 26, tagging BTVI’s Twitter handle, Thakur wrote, “For us, BTVI channel is officially closed down, and we’re still waiting to get our dues since last six months. Then how is Twitter handle still active with market closedown update?” He has been blocked by the channel since then.
Meanwhile, some of the employees met NCP leader Supriya Sule and sought her help to resolve the matter. In a written appeal to Sule, ex-staffers of Anil Ambani owned channel requested her to help them in getting their rights. The letter that was written can be read here: