TIMES of Zambia workers have today started an indefinite strike to press for payment of their salary arrears by management.
But information minister and chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya has said government will have to make tough decisions to keep Times of Zambia afloat, saying the media institution is insolvent. The decision to strike, according to a statement issued by Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ) general secretary Robinson Kunda, followed meetings held in Ndola and Lusaka where it was agreed that all unionised employees withdraw labour starting today.
In a letter addressed to Times Print Park Human Resources and Administration Manager yesterday, Kunda stated that the resolution to withdraw labour was unanimously arrived at after carefully analysing the slow pace at which management at the State owned Times Printpark had been dealing with the unpaid salary arrears for their members.
He further stated that the decision was also compounded by the unfulfilled promise of clearing at least three months salary arrears by Siliya.
“…The above reasons have left the unionized workers with no option but to register their grievances by way of withdrawing labour starting Tuesday, May 15, 2018 up to that date government and management will look into their plight. It is our hope that this matter will receive the urgency it deserves,” stated Kunda.
But Siliya said tough decisions, among them letting go of staff, have to be made owing to the seriousness of the problems at the media institution. She acknowledged that the Times of Zambia was in dire problems but said the institution was over staffed and “yet their circulation was low”.
“I cannot sugarcoat it for you, Times of Zambia is in a bad situation, it’s in a very bad situation. In fact at this point, it’s insolvent, bankruptcy is the word and I think what the IDC are trying to do, working frantically is to see how to resolve this situation…one; it is over staffed, two; it’s under circulated; three, it means that if it’s over staffed and under circulated, where is the money going to come from to support the staff? So tough decisions have to be made, including letting go of staff, including reorganisation of the business model,” Siliya said during a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday.
She said the problems at Times were dire and the government was not going to continue pumping in money without resolving the underlining issues. Siliya said the government could not continue taking money meant for other needs like hospitals and schools to pay salaries for a few people.
“As long as the business model is not coming, there is no way you are going to find money to pay the staff. Like I said to you, there is a disruption of the traditional media now and many of you, yourselves don’t even buy newspapers now, you read your news from somewhere else. So if you are not buying the newspaper…why are we going to advertise there? They are going to advertise somewhere else. The problems of Times of Zambia are real and I cannot sugarcoat them. It will require massive, massive overhaul…,” said Siliya.
“We are saying that Times of Zambia, your problems are real there and no matter how much money government puts in there, if the order is not working, the business model is not working, the paper circulation I think is 7,000 and yet its overstaffed, this equation is not going to work.”