Independent Media, the publisher of The Cape Times, The Star, Isolezwe and The Mercury, has retrenched 128 employees to cut its wage bill, reports Fin24.

The newspaper group, an indirect subsidiary of Iqbal Survé's Sekunjalo group, warned of the ‘harsh reality of job reductions’ in June.

The last day at work for the employees was 31 October.

Of the 128, 44 took voluntary severance packages, while 84 received notices saying they would not be reappointed after they were asked to reapply for their jobs. Another 13 staff members chose to resign, bringing to 141 the number of people leaving.

The group includes editorial and advertising staff, as well as admin and sales workers in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN.

Many are now up in arms that the first tranche of their promised severance packages has not been paid. 

Independent Media had hashed out a compromise with employee representatives during weeks of negotiations for severance pay to be spread out over three months rather than deposited in a lump sum.

Former employees say they grudgingly accepted the compromise because of the company's strained financial position.

They expected the first of three equal tranches to reflect in their bank accounts on 31 October or 1 November.

The remaining two payments would then follow in late November and late December.

But nothing was paid over in early November.

Staff say they then hoped payment would take place on 7 November. But the payments are still outstanding.

The media group, which did not respond to News24's requests for comment, has blamed ‘last minute funding delays from our shareholders’ for the delays.

Full Fin24 report