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For us, our employees are our priority, says Cheil India after facing flak over work culture

The agency faces criticism after a former staffer took to LinkedIn to call out Cheil for allegedly forcing employees to go to office amid the pandemic. Recently, two employees of the agency lost their lives due to Covid while many are suffering

While the people of India continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones and fight the mayhem caused by the second Covid-19 wave, the advertising and marketing industry is buzzing with conversations around the toxic work culture at ad agencies.

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It’s a conversation that keeps recurring in the industry and is most of the times shoved under the rug. This time around, Rahul Bhatnagar, a former employee of Cheil, took to LinkedIn to criticise the agency for allegedly forcing its employees to come to office amid the raging pandemic.

He wrote, “Despite repetitive requests and implores, my ex-agency decides to keep its offices open during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing and threatening its employees to come to the office. Result? Two people lost their lives while a couple more are currently fighting for theirs in the hospital. Now how is this justified? Who gave such organisations the permission to let people die, and destroy families? They are in constant denial and believe they are Gods (because obviously, this is not what humans do).”

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His post incited several industry people to criticise the agency and to take a stand against what happened. Although Bhatnagar didn’t mention the name of the agency in his write-up, he did use the hashtag #CheilIndia below the post.

There were a few who defended the company’s stance in the comments section. One can read the whole thread of comments that flooded on Bhatnagar’s post in his post mentioned below.

His LinkedIn post:

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Cheil India released a statement after the uproar. The statement reads, “India’s Covid crisis has been beyond heart-breaking. No company was immune to the ravage of Covid. We recently lost two of our employees to Covid. It has been a very tragic and unfortunate time for all of us but we have been standing by our employees all throughout. Amid this tough time, we are working round the clock to provide necessary medical aid and support the mental well-being of our people.”

On following government protocols and safety guidelines, Cheil wrote, “Cheil India has been following all government protocols and safety guidelines since the onset of pandemic last year. We started with 10% capacity last year. We have constantly been amending our Work-from-Office policies and ensuring the complete safety of all our employees at the workplace. From weekly tests for all our employees to maintaining complete social distancing, from sanitisation of our office on regular intervals to following all safety and hygiene measures, we were adhering to all the government laid guidelines. We were operating at 40-45% capacity in January 2021 and completely shifted to the Work-from-Home model beginning April 2021. For us, our employees are our priority.”

Nikhil Narayan, Creative Director at Ogilvy, dedicated a song to the two employees who lost their lives.

How many times must a client bully you,

Before you say enough of this crap?

How many years can an ad guy serve,

Before he is shown some respect?

And how many spirits can the management bend,

before they break like a twig?

Dear ad agency, show basic empathy

Show basic empathy, agency

How many days must a man work for,

Before you let him work from home?

How many people should test Covid positive,

Before you shut your damn office down?

And how many guys must fall down dead,

Before you grow a conscience?

Dear ad agency, show basic empathy

Show basic empathy, agency

Spread messages of your own with the hashtag

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