by Zena Henry
The Ministry of Social Protection has embarked on bringing media entities in line with labour laws.
The scope of work pertaining to media operations is usually characterized by long hours, tremendous research and sometimes dangerous situations. But this is hardly taken into consideration and addressed within the ambit of labour laws.
Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection Simona Broomes said that it was the sum-total of complaints reaching her ministry from media operatives. During a sit-down with reporters Monday August 17, the minister made it clear that media workers are “employees” and labour laws that guarantee the rights of all workers apply to them also.
In identifying some complaints made to the ministry and other problems identified by media attendees; it was noted that apart from instances of poor working conditions, media workers endure long hours and little pay, among other common difficulties indigenous to workers in general.
It was opined by media employees, particularly those employed with the state that they suffer the most. Given the scope of work, it is common that some media workers’ operation surpasses the stipulated eight-hour work day, but they still receive flat salaries. Their time- off or day offs are sometimes cut short or non-existent.
Common statements in the media are that the job is for those who love it, news comes at anytime and requires that commitment from the reporter. If a reporter is working on a story and the information is late coming, regardless of time, reporters are told it is their duty to stay back for the information, and complete the story.
Minister Broomes pointed out however that, while the news has to get out and news may come at any time, “that does not take away from the workers’ rights when you speak to law.” She charged that, “it is for your employer to have an arrangement or fair policy with the employee as to how that works out. It should not be a hand down approach.”
She insisted that “employees are employees across the board,” whether private of state.” Broomes noted that it is her role as minister, “to be that peacemaker between employer and employee. I cannot bargain; I cannot give away their rights because of any other reason.”
The labour ministry’s Deputy Chief Labour Officer Lydia Greene and labour consultant Francis Carryl supported the complaints made by media workers. Carryl said that given the reports, “media workers are very unhappy,” while Greene elaborated on the various violations that reporters face.
Among the ideas being touted to address these issues are subventions for entities that strengthen and safe guard media rights, training and education sessions on employee rights, among others. These will be explored following in-depth consultations with the owners of media entities scheduled to kick off soon.
While Monday morning’s discussions focused on the media, the ministry is contemplating a massive conference to invite workers and employers from all over the country to hear their concerns and problems.