Akufo-Addo has collapsed Graphic newspaper, now going on sale with assets being distributed to cronies; workers are to be laid off

The once illustrious Daily Graphic newspaper, under the helm of the Graphic Communications Group, is facing a tumultuous downfall, with news emerging of its imminent sale to a government crony, together with its massive landed properties scattered across the country.

The producers of Mirror, Graphic Sports and Junior Graphic newspapers, known for their longstanding presence as one of the nation’s foremost media outlets, find themselves drowning in a sea of financial woes, including unpaid salaries, pensions, end-of-service benefits, debts to suppliers, and dilapidated machinery.

A major meeting is scheduled for tomorrow Thursday, April 4, 2024, at 11 am prompt for a special announcement to be delivered by Ato Afful, the Managing Director of the company which will determine the fate of the media house.

In the dire turn of events, employees have been left in limbo, with fears of impending layoffs looming over their heads, compounded by the unsettling reality of salaries remaining unpaid for months.

Sources close to the matter, suggest that the rush to finalize the sale, comes ahead of the impending exit of the Akufo-Addo government, with fear the state-owned company and its assets dotted across the country, will be going to cronies of the government.

The fate of the Daily Graphic and its sister newspapers hangs in the balance, emblematic of broader challenges facing traditional media institutions in an era of rapid technological advancement and shifting consumer preferences.

A notice sent to staff yesterday Tuesday, April 2, 2024, titled “Special Staff Meeting” hinted at a significant announcement to be made during an emergency staff meeting between management and employees tomorrow Thursday, April 4, 2024, at 11 am prompt for a special announcement by the Managing Director. The venue is the staff canteen. Regional Staff will join via Zoom. Attendance is compulsory”.

Speculations run rife regarding the future of the company, including the potential transfer of ownership and the fate of its valuable assets spread across the country, including estate houses in Wa, Bolga, Kumasi, Tamale, Koforidua, Accra, Ho and others.

Although, the agenda for this emergency meeting is not defined, sources told The Herald that the MD, Ato Afful, who represents workers will announce a sector recapitalization deal, under which share will be floated.

Most of the workers are against this new move, which is expected to start and complete in six months. As this will mean the 70-year-plus state media house, will cease to operate as such. The new owners, will now take charge of the company’s operations and call the shots as to what is news.

Dissent among workers is palpable as some had anticipated a sector recapitalization deal involving the floating of shares.

Many expressed concerns over the privatization of a state institution, fearing adverse effects on community development and the livelihoods of employees.

This grim situation accentuates a series of missteps by management, including a failure to adapt to the changing landscape of media consumption, particularly in the digital sphere.

Despite substantial investments in unsuccessful ventures, such as failed app launches, it was said that governmental demands for increased revenue sent the company into a coma and on the brink of collapse.

With the possibility of retrenchment, loss of livelihoods, and financial insecurity looming large, employees face an uncertain future.

The company’s assets, spread across various regions, could have been liquidated to alleviate the debts, be the government is opting for a move that further exacerbate the plight of workers.

Meanwhile, unresolved issues regarding end-of-service benefits, pension contributions, and unpaid debts to retirees, paint a dire picture of financial mismanagement and neglect.

Workers lament the potential erosion of their retirement savings, as the company’s failure to remit contributions jeopardizes their future financial security.

They argue that private individuals taking charge of a state company, like Graphic, will not bond well for even community, and company development among others.

Sometime last year there were hints of a possible listing of the Graphic on the stock market. This followed a cabinet decision to let go of some shares of the company to a strategic investor a government-selected or recommended person.

It has now gotten to the workers and there is so much apprehension over the possible sale and what may happen to them. Currently, there is so much the company is challenged and saddled with.

All statutory payments on Pay As You Earn (PAYE) are in several months of arrears Provident Fund (PF), SSNIT, and personnel Bank loan repayment is not going to GCB, and standing orders to workers’ Credit Union account is not being paid.

Ahead of tomorrow’s durbar to break the news to the workers, scouts from media houses have been asking questions but the poor worker can’t say anything because they don’t know. As of last week, reports were that the news could either be the government absorbing the workers onto the single spine, restructuring or otherwise.

“We are worried particularly with management conduct in all this. From the onset, they should have communicated the plan if they meant well. So that we are all on the same wavelength. We are aware of the falling trends in newspapers except that we weren’t proactive to have delved deeply into the electronic space.

“This unfortunate situation has been the major cause of the Graphic nosedive to the bottom. Successive management has lacked the courage to situate the company in the electronic space even though they spent colossal amounts of money to build apps that failed on arrival.

“The government on the other hand only made demands of the company without the needed interest to do things that would shore up the revenue. What would happen to the company and workers?

“Likely retrenchment/layoff of workers, loss of livelihood and possible loss of money.

“Such an investor being fitted for the purpose by the government would aim at the many assets of the company sell them off and pay off some debts. Why can’t this be done now?

“The company has properties in 10 regions of the country. A warehouse in Tema, estate houses in Tema, a building situated in Adabraka in a good location and its head office buildings.

“The company pays workers’ salaries in the following month, i.e. post month for a long while now.

We truncated our end-of-service benefits ESB in 2017. The money was invested in insecurities which was shut down by the government.

“Eventually the money suffered a haircut and some amounts were paid to staff. The company owes both retirees and current workers 30% of the total amount and that is not forthcoming.

“The retirees won a case in court for the company to find ways to pay immediately through some means. Our current 3rd tier and SSNIT is in jeopardy and expected to throw many of us into old age poverty because the company hasn’t paid our fund managers both company portion and workers’ contributions in months.

“What it means is that our investment won’t accrue the expected interest to grow our investment exponentially.

The NPRA and fund managers, haven’t brought sanctions on the company, or even say that the company should pay interest on the losses. It is the same for SSNIT contributions.

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