The workers union at Next Media, the publishing outfit controlled by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, issued an urgent notice to its members, telling them not to accept any proposals from management to alter their employment status or resign, hk01.com reports.
The Next Media Trade Union said the company, which publishes Apple Daily and Next Magazine, is planning to outsource its operations phase by phase, including asking some of its departments to set up a company to serve as a supplier.
Dozens of employees could be affected by the company’s decision, said the union, which was set to meet management representatives on Friday.
The company is said to be considering outsourcing work at its Next Magazine as well as the supplement, art, sports and finance sections of its newspaper.
Meanwhile, some staffers have been asked to resign by the end of June and become self-employed on Aug. 1. Next Media will reportedly offer service contracts of six months to 12 months to this group of self-employed staff, but there will be no severance or long-service payments.
The union said the company’s decision will deal a huge blow to employee protection and quality of newspaper work.
According to Ming Pao Daily, rumors were circulating earlier this week that Next Media Taiwan would be hiring editorial staff, including reporters, by outsourcing.
Next Media chief executive Cheung Kim-hung has declined to comment when contacted by Ming Pao reporters.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association issued a statement of concern on Thursday, asking how employees’ rights could be protected if they are hired as outsourced staff.
The association also agreed with the Next Media Trade Union that affected staff should not agree to any proposals put forward by the employer in the meantime.
Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, senior lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Communication, said outsourcing reporting and editorial work could lead to an increase in coverage of controversial topics which would tend to arouse instant responses online.
Journalists could be discouraged to conduct in-depth reporting on news topics as they chase short-term performance indicators.
Mung Siu-tat, chief executive of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said by outsourcing its production, Next Media is simply trying to avoid making severance payments for laid-off staff.
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