Over 300 staff at Cable News have signed a petition against the broadcaster’s decision to fire three senior engineers, slamming the move as a “heavy blow” to the news department.
The petition titled “Please stop unreasonable personnel changes” had collected 390 signatures as of 11 pm on Sunday. Among the petitioners were reporters, editors, presenters, cameramen and engineers, who demanded an explanation from management regarding the immediate dismissal of three senior engineers last Friday.
According to the petition, the employees concerned had played an “indispensable role” in news production after serving in the Cable TV engineering unit for over 20 years. They worked closely with the news department to resolve technical issues and ensured reporting material filmed outside could be transferred smoothly back to the office for streaming, it said.
“They have taken part in much important reporting, and they are like brothers and sisters with frontline reporters and cameramen. This incident is indeed a heavy blow to the news department,” the letter addressed to company’s chairman David Chiu read.
The signatories also questioned “who was running the news department,” after its managers and directors Edna Tse, Anderson Chan and Oscar Lee said they were unaware of the redundancy decision beforehand when responding to staff enquires. Earlier this month, the trio hit headlines when Tse took charge the news department, with Chan and Lee assuming the newly-added roles of news directors.
The petition said the management reshuffle was “abrupt,” and it criticised the new leadership as having a “questionable reputation” in the industry: “We believe this is a wrong decision that lacked consultation and understanding of the operations of the news department,” it said.
Responding to local media enquiries, Cable TV said on Saturday that the departure of the three engineers were part of a “regular restructuring” and “review of human resources.” The staffers concerned had received reasonable compensation in accordance with labour laws and such an arrangement would not affect the daily operations of the news department, the pay-to-view TV firm said.
On Monday morning, Cable TV’s Chief Financial Officer Kwok Chi-kin told newsroom heads that management had the power to decide the personnel structure in different departments, but they would not interfere with press freedom. He added that Tse, Chan and Lee believed they were capable of coordinating the newsroom to raise the their competitiveness. “[Cable News] maintains editorial freedom and keeps its stance to produce impartial, fair and objective reporting,” Cable TV wrote in a statement.
But the Cable News employees urged the management to give reasons for firing the three engineers and explain how they believed the news department would not be affected. They also demanded clarification over whether Tse, Chan and Lee were involved in the redundancy decision, and asked that a consultation take place before major personnel changes in the future.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said on Saturday that media companies have faced operational challenges, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. But employers should try their best to avoid redundancies and maintain communication with their employees to weather the hard times together, the association said.
“We are worried that redundancy moves will be a serious blow to staff morale. We urge media organisations to consider other measures,” the HKJA wrote on Facebook.