The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council on Tuesday picketed the premises of ThisDay newspapers in Apapa, Lagos to protest the non-payment of nine months arrears of salaries owed its members.
The newspaper has also failed to remit personal income tax, pension cooperative deductions and check-off dues from paid salaries in the last four years.
The union, led by the NUJ Lagos State Chairman, Deji Elumoye, carried placards and barricaded the entrance of the media organisation, owned by the President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, Mr Nduka Obaigbena.
Elumoye, who is also a staff of ThisDay, said he decided to lead the protest against his organisation to show that charity begins at home. He said the protesting journalists were condemning the refusal of the management of ThisDay and 12 other media houses to settle the several months’ arrears of salaries to their workers, especially journalists. “There are other media organisations owing over two years, and we will go to all of them. It is time to put a stop to non-payment of salaries in media organisations. Many families cannot pay their house rents or their children’s school fees. The journalists are paid peanuts. Yet, they do not get the salaries. It is sad,” he said.
Elumoye urged newspaper publishers to accord priority to the welfare of their workers adding that anyone that cannot operate and pay workers should close his or her business. He said the publisher of ThisDay, Mr. Obaigbena, who is the president of NPAN, must lead by example by paying his workers all their entitlements.
He called on the National Pension Commission to prosecute media owners, who do not remit workers’ pension contributions to serve as deterrent to others.
In his reaction, in solidarity with the NUJ, the Nigeria Labour Congress said it was giving full backing to the protest by journalists against several months of unpaid salaries by the management of some prominent media houses in the country.
The acting president of the Congress, Peters Adeyemi, said the principle and logic that the labourer was deserving of his wages was infinite, sacred and sacrosanct as the core of the employer-worker relationship. Adeyemi said the violation of this principle was not only a negation of the essence and basis of work, but also a peril to the family and statutory obligations of the worker to the State and his God. “The picketing of ThisDay represents a bold and courageous response after all the processes of an amicable resolution had been exhausted. It also represents the beginning of a long process of engagement with other non-salary-paying media organizations,” Adeyemi said.
Adeyemi listed the other affected media houses to include the Africa Independent Television (AIT), which is owing about 17 months arrears; Independent Newspapers Limited, publishers of Daily Independent (nine months arrears), and Tell Magazine (eight months).
The others include the National Mirror and Newswatch Times (7 months), both owned by Jimoh Ibrahim; The News/PM News (9 months); the Daily Champion (18 months); Hallmark owned by Emeka Obasi (8 months) and the Daily Times (6 months).
“The notion by some of the proprietors that the possession alone of the identity card of their media organisations by the journalist is a meal ticket, is patently false and should be discarded,” the NLC said. “If they believe it is that easy, let them run the organizations from the streets themselves.”
By Olisemeka Obeche