Myanmar Times lays off 70 employees

The Myanmar Times has laid off 70 of its employees, including 30 journalists, staff told Myanmar Now on Wednesday.

The layoffs are meant to last just until July, staff said.

Staffers will be paid 50% of their wages throughout May and will have to take June off as unpaid leave, said Wai Lin, the paper’s chief operating officer.

“We have not fired them,” he said. “At the end of June, we’ll make a decision on whether or not to call them back in.”

The paper would not offer a reason for the layoffs, but the Covid-19 pandemic has hit newspaper revenues across the world, forcing layoffs and closures elsewhere.

Some employees have criticised the move as a way of firing employees without paying severance payments required by the labor ministry.

Under law, severance entitlements are determined by how long an employee has been at a company.

“If they want to remove all of us at once, compensate us according to the rules and regulations,” an employee who requested anonymity told Myanmar Now. “Now it’s awkward. It feels like they’re making decisions in secrecy.”

Wai Lin denied the move was an attempt to skirt the law.

“If they don’t want to stay, we’ll terminate them and follow the regulations of the labor ministry,” he said.

Last November the Myanmar Times abruptly let 13 editors go in what it called a “reorganisation exercise with the aim of improving the quality of the paper.”

Myanmar Consolidated Media (MCM), the newspaper’s parent company, employs more than 300 people.

MCM also produces the Burmese-language Myanmar Times daily and a Burmese-language news weekly.

Additional Reporting by Chan Thar.

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