An unofficial sick-out in two key departments at the Guyana Chronicle resulted in publication being delayed on Friday but management said the newspaper experienced technical problems.
Frustrated over salaries and working conditions, several layout and pressroom staff at the Chronicle reportedly stayed away on Thursday resulting in a temporary crisis at the newspaper. The paper went to press subsequently.
But Acting General Manager, Guyana Chronicle, Nandkishore Pooran denied there were any issues with staff when contacted on Friday. He said the newspaper had some technical difficulties which had later been corrected, adding that publication was delayed as a result of the problems.
“Staff report sick every day and Thursday was no different. I am not aware of any sick-out at the newspaper or staff having issues with management. Things are normal here,” Pooran said.
Stabroek News was informed that around six employees planned to take action after meeting with management and expressing dissatisfaction with working conditions and salaries. The union was contacted on the sick-out, according to reports.
Issues such as understaffing in several departments, annual leave being altered, non-provision of transportation for some late duty staff, overtime and salary increases, which have been raised for some two years were again articulated when staff met with management recently.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one staffer said that their concerns had fallen on deaf ears, no matter how much they had spoken up. “We were even told that if we don’t like it, we can leave the job,” the staff member said.
The employee said they were fed up of being ignored and would keep pressing for changes.
This newspaper contacted Chairman of the Board, Keith Burrowes who said there had been no official position from the union on industrial action. He said the newspaper was dealing with technical difficulties, adding that he was not aware of problems with the staff. Burrowes said he had been in touch with Pooran and had been informed of the technical problems. He said management regretted the delay in publication.
On Friday the Guyana Press Association (GPA) said it was deeply concerned at the deteriorating industrial relations climate at the Guyana National Newspapers Limited publishers of the Guyana Chronicle and Sunday Chronicle newspapers.
In a statement the GPA expressed the hope that industrial unrest would be averted and stated that management should allow good wisdom to prevail and refrain from importing personnel from other newspapers to work since this would be nothing short of employing anti-working class tactics.
The association noted that the time had come for a general staff meeting to facilitate a free and frank exchange of concerns, ideas, suggestions and recommendations from all parties concerned with a guarantee that no one would be victimized, adding that the sole objective of any such discourse must be to improve all aspects of working conditions aimed at guaranteeing journalistic credibility, grammatical accuracy, and financial viability with a view to increasing the now woefully all-time low circulation of the Daily and Sunday Chronicle.
GPA said it stood ready to work with the Clerical and Commercial Workers Union and the management and staff of the Guyana Chronicle to reverse the declining trends of work morale and financial viability of the Chronicle whose circulation was 4,000 copies for the daily edition and 12,000 copies for the Sunday edition.
“Rather than being pre-occupied with ensuring the content is politically correct in the eyes of the government and a heavy reliance on releases of the Government Information Agency (GINA); the highest echelons of management will be better off providing general policy frameworks rather than hands-on editorial influence and interference,” the press body said.
Further, the association said the time had come for the signatories to the Collective Labour Agreement (COLA) to conduct an urgent and immediate review of staff concerns including the reduction in emoluments due to the adjustment of the working hours of some categories of staff; no meal vouchers of G$475.00 during over-time work, and a reluctance to provide transportation to certain categories of workers who justifiably work late at nights.
According to the GPA, while freelance journalists did not fall within the ambit of the COLA, management should reverse the unilateral reduction in the rates for this category of media workers because they had proven to be the backbone of the news-room.