Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post mulls over retrenchments to stay afloat

JAKARTA – Indonesia’s main English-language daily, The Jakarta Post, is considering laying off most of its workforce as part of a plan to keep afloat amidst plunging advertising revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Details of the plan were revealed after minutes of a meeting between representatives of the daily’s employees, a key shareholder and the board of directors went viral on social media on Thursday (Aug 27).

According to the minutes, staffcost needs to be reduced to 30 per cent of total costs if the company is to continue operating in a sustainable manner and overcome its financial difficulty.

This means the daily would only retain a third of its total employees, or between 50 to 60 people, with the rest being promised severance pay, according to the minutes.

“High employee cost is the biggest source of the financial problem that The Jakarta Post is facing. Today, 75 per cent of the company’s total expenses are attributed to paying salaries and other employee-related expenses,” the minutes dated Aug 26 said.

“Pak Jusuf stated the costs the company is spending for employees have grown too high, hence the company has to cut such costs if it wants to survive,” the document says, citing Mr Jusuf Wanandi, whose family owns 35 per cent of the paper, the single largest shareholder.

The remaining shares, among others, are owned by Indonesian dailies Kompas and Sinar Harapan, and the country’s most read weekly magazine Tempo.

The Jakarta Post’s readership reached its peak in late 1990s when it had a circulation of above 40,000. The Post has an online edition thejakartapost.com and is targeted mostly at foreigners and the middle-class Indonesian population.

As Indonesia’s leading English-language daily for decades, The Jakarta Post has won several awards. The latest was the 2020 award for public service in journalism from the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA), which the daily jointly received with three other Indonesian media. The Jakarta Post is a member of the Asia News Network.

On the document that went viral, the Jakarta Post’s management issued a statement on Thursday, saying: “The lay-off plan, if and when implemented, will only be a last resort and will be part of cost-cutting measures aimed at sustaining the Post in the long run.”

The turnaround is needed to weather the coronavirus pandemic that has hit the economy and the management hopes the paper could maintain its presence and contribution to Indonesia’s burgeoning democracy.

“However, even before the pandemic hit, things had been difficult for all conventional media companies, given the rise of social media and news aggregator services,” according to Thursday’s statement that was confirmed by deputy editor-in-chief Taufiq Rahman.

The Straits Times understands that a few potential investors spoke with the shareholders on a possible equity purchase and fund injection to the Jakarta Post before the coronavirus outbreak. The offer, however, was not for a controlling 51-per-cent stake, which most investors would otherwise be more interested in.

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