When The Red Pepper published the payroll of The Vision Group, adrenaline went in overdrive as the top dogs at 19/21 First Street Industrial Area sought immediate damage control. Word reaching us indicated that several staff members were vilified upon learning that dummies who only report to work to take tea and write a column, front desk assistants, cleaners and newbies were earning more than the real donkeys.
The day of the publication, some staffers just logged out of their machines and left to suffocate their sorrows in whatever they could find. Sensing the situation, management called for a hasty meeting of the top honchos to brainstorm how to respond to the situation. The Frying Pun wasted no time in planting a fly on the wall and the results are quiet something.
Robert Kabushenga, the Shs37 million bankable chief executive started off by blaming Kizza Besigye. “My sources are convinced Besigye leaked that salary for his own political gain. He calls himself a politician, but who does that? Who?” No one responded. Kabushenga realised his mistake and tried to change tact, but he instead ending up laughing in spite of himself. Alone.
“What we need now is damage control. What has happened is a first and exposes a lot. Only damage control can suffice now. How long shall we make dwell on Besigye for everything including our shadows?” the Shs24 million bankable Barbara Kaija, the Editor in Chief. Kaija and Kabushenga have always been two like polls on the magnetic field.
“My humble submission on this scandal is that we call a general meeting and announce restructuring… I mean review. Overall review of overall and all the salary of the staff. This will buy us time, if you get what I mean.” Zubair Musoke, the chief financial officer, did not even flinch as he spoke these words. The boardroom went silent, a silence as one experienced only in the inside of a coffin. Then, slowly, what this Shs24 million bankable manager was saying downed on the rest: play politics.
“Zubair is right,” declared Dr Wendo, the veterinary doctor who earns more than his measly weight can shake the finger of a weighing scale. “Announcing a review will calm these guys.”
“Are you saying we should take salary cuts now?” Kalungi Kabuye asked, speaking through his nose like an octogenarian former seminarian. “I am only earning Shs6 million, the suggestion of a review wouldn’t be fair to some of us.”
“Actually, the review would play out well because after calming the rest, we can then handpick a few who really deserve salary raise and give them some percentage. No one will know we gave them the raise but their opinion about the whole thing will change. With the angry voices reduced, the matter will die down. This must have been what Zubair was saying all along.” Ben Opolot has spoken like a real teacher and the import of the matter sunk even in Kabuye. Opolot is bankable at Shs13 million monthly.
“So who are those ‘few who deserve a raise’ you mean?” asked David Mukholi. “Gerald Tenywa? Look at me, after all these years, I still earn less than…” he shut up before he had completed his complaint.
“But why would Tenywa really earn less than Kamilla?” asked Hillary Baineomugisha.
“That guy supplements his salary with the many awards he wins. Every award for the media, Tenywa gets some millions so we saw no need to pay him too much,” explained Paul Busharizi, the Shs6 million rated former Business Editor.
Laughing, John Kakande said: “Are you saying that Paul Eremu… by the way, where is he? Has he joined the others in silent protest because he earns less than people he has supervised for more than ten years?”
“If we put things like this, even Etukuri will demand a raise really. Let’s be reasonable. I can understand if Robinah Mwerukah was the one being given a double raise because Shs1.7 million surely isn’t commensurate with her fame and status,” Cathy Mwesigwa said.
“Uh-huh? Cathy is right,” said Hellen Mukiibi, the News Editor, who takes home Shs7 milllion. “But wait, Etukuri? I understand HR decided he did not deserve more than he earns because he does well selling us chicken. Besides, we reckoned—and rightly so by the way—that paying him more than he earns will just spoil him. He will return to booze and campus girls and then what?”
“As for Robinah,” Opolot said, “she is fun… I mean, going by that thing [the sextape], she loves life, not money. Give her life, freedom… she will be happier with that than with a pay raise.”
“I think we are losing it. Grownups talking like that during a crisis? I know Pierre Nkurunziza, the Burundian joker, goes around playing football under tight security as yards away, protesters are calling for his neck, but if we become this…” words lost Airat Nakaja, said. The manager for financial accounting and treasury is worth about Shs10 million.
“I will audit these randy comments,” joked Francis Opoi, the manager for internal audit.
“What of The Kampala Sun team? Alex Balimwikungu, Emmanuel Ssejjengo and the rest?” asked Jimmy Adriko, the Shs6 million Photo Editor.
“I don’t know about Alex,” said Keturah Kamugasa, “but for the Ssejjengo guy, he needs only enough for some mango tree salon to keep his head glittering like the iron sheets used by those guys who harvest grasshoppers with bright lights in Masaka. His value addition is the library: the stock in the library. He reads almost anything called literature.” Well formed teeth decked the boardroom. The mirth could have been heard from the newsroom and the moody staff must have wondered why these guys were laughing during such a funeral-like moment.
The Fly on the Wall had no time to go and verify if the laughter had echoed beyond the walls of the boardroom as a voice asked a rare question. “Why isn’t Carol Natukunda’s salary captured?” It was Robert Mudhasi, the Musoga from Luuka, bankable at Shs6 million.
“Carol, maybe she is a ghost within the system?” joked Cathy.
Louis Jadwong yawned loudly, putting Kabushenga back on to the present. Jadwong is worth Shs11 million. “Louis, don’t you worry, but please find out how we can increase James Bakama’s salary even if he will sink it all up in waragi. This meeting is adjourned to allow HR to consult further on Zubair’s good idea,” Kabushenga said.
The Frying Pun is a parody column