Work­ers take 357 FM to ar­bi­tra­tion

Lesotho Times - - Weekender - Mo­halenyane Phakela

357 FM em­ploy­ees have taken the youth ra­dio sta­tion to the Di­rec­torate of Dis­pute Preven­tion and Res­o­lu­tion (DDPR) for al­legedly fail­ing to pay them since April last year when it was launched.

Ac­cord­ing to the pre­sen­ters who spoke to the Week­ender on con­di­tion of anonymity, they took the DDPR route last month af­ter the owner, Mot­latsi “Vet­eran” Ma­jara, failed to pay them as agreed.

The DDPR is an au­ton­o­mous labour tri­bunal which with a man­date to re­solve trade dis­putes through ar­bi­tra­tion or con­cil­i­a­tion among other func­tions.

In its “No­tice of Set Down”, which the Week­ender man­aged to ob­tain, the DDPR set the date for the hear­ing to 25 Fe­bru­ary 2016.

One of the pre­sen­ters said they had only been paid M500 since the sta­tion was launched.

“When we started work in April last year, we were put on a four-month pro­ba­tion and told that our re­mu­ner­a­tion would only be dis­cussed af­ter that pe­riod,” the pre­sen­ter said.

“We were also promised con­tracts, but noth­ing of that sort ever ma­te­ri­alised af­ter the pro­ba­tion and there was no ex­pla­na­tion at all. “Ev­ery time we brought up the is­sue of our pay­ment, Ntate Mot­latsi would get fu­ri­ous and say that he would deal with the mat­ter dur­ing month-end, yet he would not be avail- able at that time.

“Af­ter about three months, we were given M500 each which he said was meant to com­pen­sate for our trans­port ex­penses. Later on, the sta­tion man­ager held one-on-one meet­ings with us and asked us to state the salaries we thought we de­served to earn.”

The pre­sen­ter said af­ter tir­ing of man­age­ment’s “merry go round”, they were left with no choice but to seek ar­bi­tra­tion.

“We took the mat­ter to the Min­istry of Labour late last year but the process seemed to be stalling, so we opted for the DDPR. The case was sup­posed to be heard at the DDPR on Mon­day, but we were told the pa­per­work had not been fi­nalised hence the post­pone­ment to 25 Fe­bru­ary.”

The source said most of the sta­tion’s staff had since re­signed be­cause they could no longer af­ford the trans­port costs.

“We kept on com­ing to work hop­ing that the sit­u­a­tion would im­prove un­til the end of Jan­uary when most of us re­signed be­cause we could not af­ford the trans­port costs or pay rent,” said the pre­sen­ter.

“Our fam­i­lies were also ask­ing us why we were not pitch­ing in in pay­ing the bills at home yet we were go­ing to work.”

An­other source re­vealed that the sta­tion had re­lo­cated from Pi­o­neer Mall to Ma­jara’s home in Maseru East af­ter fail­ing to pay the rent at the shop­ping cen­tre. The sta­tion went off air last month and only re­sumed broad­cast­ing last week.

Con­tacted for com­ment, Ma­jara ad­mit­ted that the sta­tion was un­able to pay its staff, but de­nied knowl­edge of the case be­fore the DDPR.

“Ev­ery­one work­ing at the sta­tion is aware that we don’t have money yet, so we agreed on a frame­work whereby they can use the sta­tion to pro­mote them­selves in the case of artists, or to ad­ver­tise their prod­ucts,” said Ma­jara who is also a share­holder at Peo­ple’s Choice Ra­dio (PC FM).

“For in­stance, some of the pre­sen­ters host events which they would have ad­ver­tised freely on the sta­tion, and what they make from those events does not ben­e­fit 357 FM.

“Ul­ti­mately, I am a me­dia per­son who knows the law. So I can­not, by any means, ex­ploit th­ese chil­dren. Ev­ery­one work­ing at the sta­tion knows the prob­lems we are fac­ing and is there on his or her free will.”

He warned that the sta­tion’s fu­ture hung in the bal­ance as it was cur­rently a loss-mak­ing busi­ness.

“We will pay them when we can, al­though it is dif­fi­cult to com­mit to a time­frame since we don’t know when the sta­tion will start gen­er­at­ing rev­enue,” he said.

“Most of 357 FM’S ex­penses are be­ing paid by the money I get from PC FM, and the chances of 357 FM clos­ing shop are high since it is clearly strug­gling to re­main afloat.”

357 FM owner Mot­latsi Ma­jara

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