Zimpapers Staffers Put Down Pens In Protest Over Pay

Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited, the country’s biggest diversified media group has found the going tough as its dominant existence in the industry is under threat forcing it to embark on drastic cost-cutting measures that are likely to cost the jobs of many, Nhau/Indaba has heard.

Exacerbated by the continuously dwindling economy amid rising operational costs that include procurement of newsprint and ink, data provision, and fuel, among others, the newspaper giant has reportedly shelved promotions and stopped recruitment of new staff with monthly canteen tickets set to be issued for only those with pay slips.

This means that sit-in correspondents are likely going to fund their own meals or scrapped off.

Sources at the stable said the result of a recent crisis meeting spelled disaster for the future of aspiring staffers under the establishment to the extent that salaries will be paid in batches whose criteria are yet to be ascertained.

The group which boasts of a robust digitalisation strategy that had enhanced recent revenue growth is now facing hard times following the decision to cut data for its staff by 75% with effect from June 1.

A decision has been made to scrap out-of-pocket allowances for fully sponsored foreign trips while subsistence and allowances for staff will only be paid for the first day as the group has resorted to paying the outstanding days directly to the hotel/ lodge.Disciplinary hearings will be conducted for any staffer who is “found abusing phones” as tight controls have been placed on telephone use following a 50 percent cut on the bill.

Those who have the benefit of vehicles will first seek approval to get them repaired while communication has been restricted to emails to save stationery.Staffers in the Bulawayo region consisting of the Sunday News, Chronicle, uMthunywa, and B-Metro have since raised their concerns over dilapidating working conditions as a result of incapacitation.

“On our job execution, the situation is becoming grave with each passing day as the few of us are expected to perform the duties of a fully and well-staffed newsroom. One reporter is expected to do three print stories, three online stories, and videos on a daily basis. The only sports reporter is now working seven days a week, a shocking situation. All this is because of staffing incapacitation. Students on attachment or correspondence are now the backbone of the newsrooms yet the opposite should entail,” reads a memo circulating in WhatsApp media groups for journalists.

Their “meagre salaries” are being eroded by “subsidising the company in the form of data”, an issue that has been constantly raised to no avail while furniture at the stable is also in a dilapidated state.

They go on to complain that it is, however, surprising to note that all these anomalies go away when top government officials visit.

“What is appalling is that whenever we have highly powered delegation including Government dignitaries, an all too good situation is presented, including clearing the courtyard of broken down vehicles which we are made to use for our assignments.So dire is the situation that we are no longer managing to meet our transport cost to work as public transport operators are now charging in forex, which we are not earning and which we can’t afford to get from the streets. It is in this regard that we as reporters based here in Bulawayo have met, caucused and resolved to inform your office as we hereby do of our incapacitation to both report to the newsrooms and also perform our duties to the satisfaction of the employer due to archaic and limited resources,” the reporters say.

Consequently, inaction on the part of the employer has led staffers to consider engaging President Emmerson Mnangagwa upon his return from Egypt as the country is only a few months from holding harmonised elections yet their mandate as reporters ahead of the plebiscite is being undermined.

Another solution they suggest is to start working from home as was the norm during the Covid-19 era on condition that they are provided with data as they can no longer afford transport costs to and from work.

“We are two months before crucial elections and one would expect a harmonious working situation yet the opposite is true. We even wonder if our principal shareholder is aware of our grave situation at all, a further reason we now want to engage with him where we will highlight all these and other challenges that inhibit our work, especially now as we count down to elections. However, we undertook to first try and find each other internally, thus this memo to your office of which we remain confident that solutions will be proffered urgently even before His Excellency returns home.”

“We are prepared to submit our content from home just like the peak of the Covid era, as long as the employer will supply us with data. We also inform your good office that we have taken a position to formally engage our Ministry for onward engagement with His Excellency on our plight. We remain fully committed to executing our duties but we feel there is lack of reciprocation on the part of the employer, hence this uncomfortable but necessary position we have taken but which we believe is in the best interest of our welfare.”

However, Group CEO Pikirai Deketeke has reportedly scheduled meetings with staff together with the group’s CFO Mr Matanhire for talks today (Wednesday). Nhau/Indaba

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