NUSOJ Voices concern over Labour rights violations at UN funded Radio Station

Nairobi (Keydmedia) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today expressed great concern over reports of mistreatment and exploitation of media workers at a UN funded Radio station for Somalia in Nairobi, Kenya.
News Keydmedia Online

The union has been receiving complaints from both current and former workers at Bar-Kulan Radio station.  Journalists who were either sacked or forced to resign complained about discriminatory treatment; deduction of salaries without consent, exploitation and other consequences.

There have been reports of failure by the station management to honour mutually agreed employment contracts, undermining of media workers committee within the Radio station and increased safety concerns by journalists at the station.

“We are extremely concerned over allegations of labour rights violations at Bar-Kulan radio, and we have taken these reports seriously,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

According to the reports, some 11 journalists were either forced to leave the media house or were sacked in total disregard of the provisions of the mutually agreed contracts. Journalists still at the station work in fear of being sacked while those already sacked or forced to resign fear political pressure.

In the last quarter of 2010, the management of Bar-Kulan reportedly made a 55% deduction on the salaries of the journalists. For instance this meant that those who earned US$2000, took home only $900, according to current and former workers at the Station.

The reason reportedly given for such significant deductions was that Bar-Kulan is viewed by the Somali private Radio Station owners as “spoiling the labour market” while one senior management officer of Bar-Kulan allegedly said that “Somali refugee journalists” have no right to earn a salary of $2000 per month when they get a maximum of $200 in their country.

An attempt by the journalists to address this matter through a meeting was scuttled by the management who also reportedly disbanded a three-member committee that had been set up to negotiate with the management. Some members of the committee were allegedly offered “incentives” to stop negotiating while the management also used the journalists’ clan affiliations to weaken the solidarity among the journalists and dared those demanding better pay to leave the radio station.

Since this failed attempt to negotiate for better payments, journalists working at the station fear they would lose their jobs if they complain. “I have no option but to take whatever salary they give me because I need to feed my family but this management is harsh and discourteous to us,” said one journalist who is working at the station. “We are repetitively told ‘the door is open’, meaning you can leave the station, no negotiation at all,” said another journalist.

The union had also received information that almost half of journalists working at Bar-Kulan Radio had reportedly received warning letters, while those dismissed earlier were laid off without following disciplinary procedures.

One senior journalist was recently forced to quit his job at Bar-Kulan after he was used as “scapegoat” when the radio station aired live, an off-the-record discussion between the Commander of the African Union Peacekeeping troops (AMISOM) and journalists in Mogadishu, concerning how AMISON could defeat Al-Shabaab.

Journalists also claim they are forced to work for long hours contrary to the provisions of their job contracts. A majority of reporters of Bar-Kulan in Somalia have neither written contracts nor staff identification cards, according to journalists in Nairobi and Somalia who work for the station. Due to sensitivity of these alleged exploitation and abuses, NUSOJ is not naming the journalists to prevent repercussions.  

The journalists who either are working for or worked before Bar- Kulan radio station, confirmed they had been targeted and warned by Al-Shabaab militants who refer to them as “apostasy” that must be punished by death for working for the radio station, which supports AMISOM and the Transitional Federal Government.

“We will embark on a campaign to secure decent conditions of work, including full respect of labour rights, for journalists, including those working at Bar-Kulan. There is no way we can accept Somali journalists to be treated as cheap labour out for exploitation and abuse,” added Osman.

NUSOJ is finalizing production of a special report on working conditions of journalists and other media workers at Bar-Kulan Radio station to unearth current conditions of work, the conditions that forced journalists to leave the station and to protect these workers against immense over-exploitation and labour rights abuses.

Bar-Kulan Radio is run by Albany Associates International UK Limited, with funding from United Nations Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), a field support operation led by the United Nations Department of Field Support (DFS) in Somalia.


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