THE Zambia Congress of Trade Unions has expressed concerned at the government’s delay in paying public sector workers’ February salaries.
And ZCTU secretary general Cosmas Mukuka says the decision by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) to suspend the broadcasting licence of Prime TV for thirty days is likely to make the government unpopular.
Mukuka said the trend of delaying salaries was unacceptable and could have a negative effect on the motivation of the workers.
“A number of workers have complained of not receiving their February salaries and this is worrying us. Delaying salaries to workers can be stressful to the workers affected and our fear is that if workers are subjected to such delays, their attitude towards work will be affected. It won’t be long before we begin to notice changes such as late reporting for work, truancy in the office and frequent absence from duty,” he said.
He reminded the government that delays in paying workers their salaries whenever they fall due was against the law and a gross violation of the workers’ rights.
“The law, as contained in the Employment Act, requires that the wages of an employee should be paid at regular intervals not being later than the fifth day following the date upon which the wages fall due. It is therefore inhuman and unfair for government to fail to pay salaries on the due date, knowing very well that these workers depend on their salaries to meet expenses such as sending their children to school, transport to and from work, food, loan repayments and payment of rentals. Some of these payments attract penalties once workers fail to pay on agreed dates,” he said.
And Mukuka condemned the decision by the IBA to suspend Prime TV’s broadcasting licence.
He said the action had worried the union because during the period of suspension, the television would not generate any income.
Mukuka said this meant that there would be no source of livelihood for the workers.
“When taking such decisions, IBA should take serious consideration of other factors involved. The reasons spelt out by IBA as grounds for the suspension sound more of a professional nature than anything and we feel the heavy punishment from IBA is unfair. We would have expected IBA to professionally engage Prime Television on the contentious issues to save the welfare of workers employed by the station,” he said. “There are various other forms of punishment IBA could have meted on Prime TV, such as making the station pay a fine for whatever offence, without depriving the workers of income. Is this the best way IBA can advise a media institution to provide training for its staff?”
Mukuka said the provision of training required financial resources and it was interesting that IBA was directing Prime TV to conduct an in-house training on basic journalism ethics and news writing but have, at the same time, handed down a 30-day suspension during which the station would lose revenue.
“How does IBA expect Prime TV to achieve this? The punitive action by IBA is in direct contrast to the PF government pro-poor policies. This action is likely to make government unpopular among the people because workers at Prime TV have families and relatives who are looking up to them for their livelihood. Besides, Prime TV has a large following of viewers who are going to be deprived of their programmes,” said Mukuka. “We appeal to IBA to seriously consider reversing this action and lift the suspension for the sake of the workers and indeed for the sake of democracy.”