The Zambia Union of Journalists says it is greatly concerned over what it perceives as favouritism from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services concerning the payment of salaries at the institutions that are under the government umbrella.
This is in relation to a statement issued by the Ministry of Information acting Permanent Secretary Mr Beaton Kaluba on Wednesday that government has released more than K10m towards the costs of salaries for the employees at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZBNC).
“While ZUJ is happy that colleagues at the ZNBC have had their issues resolved, it remains extremely disturbed that the same Ministry has been paying a blind eye to the issues at the Times Printpak which have been going on for over four years now,” says Shamaoma Musonda, President of the Zambia Union of Journalists.
Mr Musonda observed that at ZNBC, the salary arrears are less than a month while at Times of Zambia employees are owed up to seven months in arrears and this is the matter that the Ministry of Information is well aware of.
He said ZUJ has spoken to the Ministry about the issue on several occasions but nothing has been done.
“The problem of arrears at the Times Printpak has been around and in public domain for a long time but the Ministry has not cared to address them. But when another wing of the Ministry complains, it has jumped with supersonic speed to address their concerns in less than a month,” he said.
He added, “We are made to believe that all public media institutions are the ‘children’ of the government and as such the cake must be shared equitably. However, this kind of selectiveness in the distribution of funds by the Ministry to the public institutions is highly demoralizing because employees have been putting in a lot of work under difficult conditions yet their arrears keep on escalating.”
Mr Musonda said it is further disturbing when an organ as important as Parliament is misinformed that employees at the Times Printpak are sometimes paid twice a month when the reality is the opposite.
“If employees are paid twice a month, why would arrears be increasing? About a year ago, arrears were at four months but they have escalated to eight months. We ask for honesty and sincerity from people who inform the Minister about the unfortunate happenings at the Times of Zambia. We believe that involving all parties including the union, who are key stakeholders, is the best way to get accurate information,” he said.
Mr Musonda said the Ministry of Information should address problems at the Times of Zambia with the same urgency it has dealt with one month salary arrears at the public broadcaster.
“We are now wondering whether government wants work at the Times of Zambia to be halted for them to intervene. We also urged government through the Ministry of Finance to collect about K11 million that the Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail are owed by various government institutions through unpaid for advisements. This debt has been outstanding for sometimes now and it can go a long way in sorting out problems at the two biggest newspapers in the country. These salary arrears have led to untold misery for the employees whose salaries are also among the lowest compared to other similar government institutions,” he said.