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Top Star deal unsettles ZNBC workers – union

THE Zambia Union of Broadcasters and other Information Disseminators says information on the joint venture between ZNBC and Top Star is scanty.
And the Zambia Union of Broadcasters and other Information Disseminators (ZUBID) says it is not privy to the contract that has been signed by the two entities, a situation that has made employees anxious.
ZUBID general secretary Martin Maseka said there was much anxiety among workers because information concerning the contract was not free-flowing.
“We are not privy to the contract that has been signed but we have been told that they will be engaging us from time to time to share with us how they are going to go about the contract. The information is a little bit scanty. As a labour movement, I think you cannot be economical with such information because it borders on people’s jobs. When there is a partnership, as a labour movement, we need to be in the know. This anxiety needs to be managed. That is why we are saying there must be information sharing,” Maseka said.
He said there was need for all interested parties to know more on the joint venture and how it was going to affect the workers.
“We have told the Ministry of Information that we want to be informed so that our members can also know what is going on as regards the progression of this deal. We have also cautioned our members not to be in a rush to sign the contracts with Top Star without engaging us. We need to know the conditions they will be subjected to when they’re attached to Top Star. Our interest is to protect the workers so that no one loses their jobs,” Maseka said.
He said the union was yet to study the contents of the contracts.
“As a union, we also got concerned with the way the information is being managed because there is a lot of anxiety among the workers regarding how secure their jobs are. As a union, we made an initiative to go to the Ministry of Information so that we get some clarifications. I think there is what we would call ‘information gap’ because the information on the ground and what members knew was different. There hasn’t been that flow of information,” Maseka said.
“So as a union, we took it upon ourselves to get the exact position regarding the so-called joint venture. So, when we went to the Ministry of Information, we were informed that there was US$273 million which was involved. This is a government-to-government loan.  This loan has been gotten through the Exim Bank of China which in this case Top Star is going to come in with the shareholding of 60 per cent and ZNBC will have 40 per cent.”
He said ZUBID was informed that despite the joint venture, jobs were secured.
“Amos Chanda [President Edgar Lungu’s special assistance for press and public relations) also came to the meeting where he told us that jobs for the workers are secured and that they are going to employ about 400 more workers. For us, our concern was the information that our members did not have…there were talks that when this joint venture starts, people will lose jobs,” Maseka said.
And Maseka described the gagging and intimidation of independent media in the country as harsh.
“Whilst we appreciate that workers at The Post which has been closed for tax reasons could not be our members, what we are saying is that in this time and era, there is need to engage everyone; all taxpayers so that we come up with a payment model. To be so harsh and close an institution is tantamount to gagging free press, which in a democratic dispensation is not healthy and should not be encouraged. People need to get diverse information from the media. To resort to closure of a private media house is not good enough,” said Maseka. /News/WK /SM/JC

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