Unpaid Salaries In The Media: The Log In Our Eyes, By Lekan Otufodunrin

imageFollowing widespread media reports about state governments owing civil servants’ salaries for months, especially in Osun State, I remember seeing a Facebook page post meant to justifiably mock some media organisations.
The post read: Hypocrisy is when a media house is owing staff salaries and is writing an editorial criticising state government defaulting in payment of salaries.
Whoever came up with the post has good reasons to do so, considering the shocking salary debt profile of some media organisations in the country.
Some broadcast and print media organisations in the country are as guilty as some state governments for failing to meet their obligations to their workers. A report by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) shows that the salary debt ranged from five months to 18 months.
Despite all efforts to get the concerned media organisations to pay up, they have refused to pay and continued to publish and broadcast as if the welfare of the journalists does not matter.
The NUJ and the workers have been forced to resort to picketing some of the organisations in the hope that the managements will pay. Most times, the media owners have not been able to fulfil the terms of agreements reached with protesting workers.
It is very ironic that some media houses in the forefront of campaigning for the payment of salaries and allowances of civil servants are not paying their workers. How can the concerned media organisations be taken seriously by defaulting governments and private organisations when they preach what they don’t practice themselves?
If they knew better, they would have implemented their suggestions in their media organisations and shown other employers how to treat their workers better.
What some media houses pay as salaries and allowances is poor enough compared to other sectors. Their inability to pay is a major indictment which they should be ashamed of instead of carrying on as if they are above the law.
While media houses like others can complain about the down turn of the economy which has negatively impacted on their operations, there is no justification to subject affected journalists to the kind of hardship they have had to cope with due to non-payment of their salaries.
What is apparent in some cases is that lack of proper management of human and financial resources is responsible for the sorry state the debtor media houses have found themselves. It is not that some of them are not making money that is enough to pay their staff and for operations, the problem is that they are not operating the proper corporate governance principles required for growing the business.
I remember joining The Punch newspaper in May 1987, when the company was battling to survive. That the newspaper has grown to become the leading newspaper in the industry is a testimony to the efficient management which the company has become known for.
If only some of the owners and management of some of the defaulting media houses can be more disciplined and subject their operations to due diligence, they will not find themselves in the mess they are today.
The media houses are lucky that they are operating in a country like Nigeria where the labour law is not strong enough to penalise employers who don’t pay their staff. One of them who tried to publish in South Africa folded up in less than a year due to the stringent law that protects the interest of the workers.
It is high time media houses which cannot pay their staff were shut down and stop pretending to be what they are not. Media organisations cannot continue to point out the speck in others’ eyes when we have logs in ours.

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