News Column

Zimpapers Staff Vow Fight Over Pay Cut

August 8, 2014

WORKERS at Zimpapers have told management to expect a fight over plans to cut salaries by about 20 percent, a development the group chief executive claims has been forced by the country's father foul economic weather.

Majority-owned by the government, Zimpapers' titles include, The Herald, The Sunday, The Chronicle, Manica post as well as metropolitan tabloids H-Metro and B-Metro.

Executives have blamed exogenous factors for the company's financial problems, but workers say the rot is also coming from within, blaming poor management and interference from mandarins at the information ministry.

In an unsigned letter issued to media houses during the week, the workers said management could not suddenly claim there was no money when the company could afford to hire editors from the diaspora as well as give each other huge car loans.

They asked: "What was the point of senior management giving themselves motor vehicle loans ranging from US$35,000 to US$100,000 recently when they foresaw operational challenges?

"This was despite the fact that last year the same managers gave themselves car loans which we want to know whether they were repaid."

Government interference

New information ministers are in the habit of purging the editorial ranks at Zimpapers to bring in journalists loyal to them in an exercise that has proved costly for the company.

Purged incumbents whose contracts would not have expired have new posts created for them while their replacements are also entitled to car loans of up to $60,000 which insiders said are effectively grants.

Following his appointment as information minister, Jonathan Moyo, also brought in new editors with those suddenly out of favour accommodated in newly created but nondescript positions.

Only former Sunday Mail editor Brezhnev Malaba walked away, aghast at the prospect of just sitting in some office, doing nothing and waiting to collect his pay cheque at the end of the month.

The information ministry has also been forcing Zimpapers to pursue a television venture for which funding is not available although staff have since been appointed with a consultant also hired from the diaspora to drive the project.

In addition, veterans at Herald House say they have watched with alarm as the head office has grown from a lean structure of just the CEO and three or four managers to a host of group executives, each served by two secretaries in most cases.

Liquidity crunch

CEO Justin Mutasa, who is also understood to been targeted for the sack only to be saved by current squabbles in Zanu PF, made no reference to these issues when he explained the reasons for the pay cut.

"The liquidity crunch has affected our businesses," said Mutasa.

"There is a general decline in business and that affects readership; companies are also not advertising. Buying newspaper is now a luxury. People now have to deal with bread and butter issues first.

"The 20% salary cut is a proposal that was consulted on and the board has to approve that. It has not been imposed. This is a business strategy. Things would get back to normal if the economy improves."

Workers however, said they also wanted an investigation into what happened to funds raised from the disposal of company assets that include Cambridge block of flats in Avondale and Jorosa flats in Selous Avenue in Harare.

Meanwhile, Trevor Ncube, who owns the similarly troubled Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) - publishers of Newsday, The Independent and The Standard - warned print newspapers had to adopt or die.

Adopt or die

AMH was only able to pay July salaries this week and, even then, those earning above $500 were told they would only get half their wages.

Ncube said, apart from Zimbabwe's unique economic context, print media needed to adopt to technological changes, in particular the growth of online news delivery platforms and the migration to them of advertising.

"We have to realise and accept that the world is changing as far as media and related businesses are concerned. The growth of the internet and online or digital media space is affecting how we do business," Ncube said.

"We are seeing these changes here in Africa, including in Zimbabwe. Our consumers are now shifting online looking for content instead of getting it on traditional print.

"There are serious structural changes underway and we doing all we can to adjust and adapt by embracing technology and innovation to keep ahead of the curve."

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Source: AllAfrica

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