UNIONS SHUT THIS DAY NEWSPAPERS OVER UNPAID WAGES

Tomorrow, perhaps, but not today, the Nigeria Union of Journalists and the National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Product Workers seemed to have said this morning, halting all work at the THISDAY newspaper headquarters in Apapa, Lagos.

The action was the result of the failure of the newspaper’s management to bring the wages of the workers, which are in arrears of four months, up to date.

On April 5, Publisher Nduka Obaigbena sent an open memo to the staff in which he blamed the delays on last year’s BokoHaram attack on the Abuja offices of the newspaper, and promised to clear the backlog within weeks.

“The process has already started in Abuja and should end within the next 30 days when ALL arrears of salaries and entitlements would have been settled and we [sic] resume payments when due,” he said in the letter, which was issued when the NUJ indicated preparations for a labour action.

The NUJ, which subsequently published an ultimatum to themanagement of media houses who were owing staff salaries, arrived at the premises of THISDAY early today to enforce its“no pay, no work” warning.

SaharaReporters was informed that all print work, including inserts of Friday’s insertions of the newspaper, was halted by the unions.

THISDAY’s boisterous publisher, who recently set up a television station in England, was not available for comment, and he not respond to a text message.

This is not the first time Mr. Obaigbena has faced labour or legal confrontation over poor management practices.  In 2011, he was similarly confronted by the NUJ over nonpayment of nearly an entire year in salaries to his journalists.

In that year, he and his Arise (fashion) Magazine were also sued in South Africa by a business associate, Jan Malan, for breach of contract.  While the publisher of THISDAY likes to lead the highlife, once bragging that he maintains a penthouse in a five-star hotel in Washington DC, Malan alleged that he “keeps himself afloat in the international fashion world by abusingsmall players through broken promises and dishonored financial commitments.”

It would also be recalled that last February, Sahara Reporters revealed that in 2006, President (then Governor) Goodluck Jonathan paid approximately $1,000,000 (N150 million) out of Bayelsa State’s Poverty Alleviation Fund to Mr. Obaigbena to bring to Nigeria American entertainers Beyonce and Jay Z for the first THISDAY Music Festival.  Neither man has accounted for the funds.

“Obaigbena is obviously going through lean times,” an analyst said today, stressing that the newspaper has only Obaigbena and no management.

“You know it is the season between elections; the closer it gets to the 2015 elections, the richer THISDAY will be as he puts it at the service of the highest bidder.  Otherwise, there is no reason why a newspaper that is advertised as one of Nigeria’s most successful would be unable to pay staff salaries.”

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