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Tiso Blackstar journalists accuse Sanef of 'turning blind eye' to plight over pay

Mar 11 2019 17:33
Sesona Ngqakamba

In the wake of a looming industrial strike by union members of media group Tiso Blackstar, journalists there have accused the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) of turning a blind eye to their plight.

"Journalists and other employees of Tiso Blackstar are on the verge of an industrial strike due to the injustices they face at the hands of their employer. We are of the view that Sanef is ignoring the issues because this affects mostly black journalists," shop stewards of the Saftu affiliated Information Communication Technology Union(ICTU) said in a letter to the editors' forum. 

Last week Wednesday ICTU said that it estimated 200 members planned to embark on various forms of industrial action from March 14 over what they said was poor pay, among other things. 

This after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) issued a certificate of non-resolution on Monday saying the dispute between the union and the company remained unresolved.

However, the union said since the publication of the news that employees at the media house planned to down tools, Sanef has failed to speak out in support of the journalists. 

"Sanef came out strongly in support of a single individual who has accused a popular political party of harassment. We are not any way suggesting that this journalist's plight does not deserve attention from the organisation," it said.

Last Wednesday Sanef had condemned what it termed "the systemic, abusive and cruel social media attack levelled against Talk Show Host and veteran journalist Karima Brown by Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema and his supporters."

The employees say it was "questionable" that one person's case was supported while a group of plus-minus 200 "black media professionals are ignored".  

"This is disappointing considering the fact that the organisation claims to uphold and protect the rights of journalists in the country," the union said.

The employees are also calling for Sanef to support their campaign in asking freelancers to withhold their services while the strike action takes place.

Sanef's Kate Skinner confirmed that the forum has received the letter from the union. Skinner said it was the first time that the editors' forum received a formal letter regarding the looming industrial strike. 

She added that the forum did not generally deal with labour issues and intern issues in terms of working conditions. 

"We don't generally deal with labour issues and ... issues in terms of working conditions. What we generally deal with is issues around the broader media environment; freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of media issues," said Skinner. 

Skinner said the forum was however more than willing and happy to meet with the union and discuss their issues.

"As soon as we got the letter, we then discussed it within our management committee," she said. 

Sanef said it would communicate with ICTU and work out a time when they would meet. ICTU president Moeketse Lepheana said the union would meet with the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday. 

Last week the union issued a letter to the commission warning that its proceedings might be disrupted as from March 14 due to the planned strike.  

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