Monday, November 19, 2007
The Guardian: Why we are off the streets
On Tuesday, November 6, 2007, the leadership of the local branch of National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPPPROW) and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) supported by some outside elements, who invaded the company, decided to suspend the production of the newspaper and ordered the staff out of the premises as they announced the commencement of an industrial action against the company.
Since then, The Guardian titles have been off the streets and online. We would like to apologise to our numerous readers, advertisers, and other partners and patrons for whatever inconvenience this may have caused. We will also like to put on record our heartfelt appreciation of the enormous support and expression of goodwill that we have received from persons and organizations, at home and abroad, who have called to offer advice, and express concern about the sudden disappearance of their darling newspaper from the newsstands.
We observe with great pain that since the incident occurred the leadership of the unions in our company, have been making statements in the media, with the intention of portraying our company in a bad light. Much of what has been reported to the public is no more than outright fabrication, gross misrepresentation, and a campaign of calumny. It is important that the records be set straight and the position of management at this point, explained to the public.
Before the declaration of a workers' strike on November 6, management had been in dialogue with the local unions, a committee was also set up to negotiate with the unions and strengthen the communication channel between management and workers. In the course of the negotiations, the unions insisted on a 50 per cent salary increase across board for their members. Management offered a 20 per cent increase. At The Guardian, salaries are always paid as and when due. We also offer some of the best conditions of service in the industry, including special incentives to encourage performance and commitment. We run a fully automated operation, a computerized system, and only this year, a modern state of the art, new press was installed to make the production process easier. We have also been faithful to every contract of appointment and the principle of collective bargaining. But the unions rejected the 20 per cent increase in salary and stood their ground.
In their statements, the unions have grossly misrepresented the details of the negotiations to the public. We consider the resort to blackmail shocking. We find the animus that has been put forth by the union leaders astounding. We are alarmed that persons who work in a company and who ostensibly would like to remain a part of it, would do so much to humiliate the company in the eyes of the public and even take steps to destroy it.
Nonetheless, management has spent the past two weeks holding meetings with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the local unions to resolve the impasse. We would like to thank the NLC for its intervention and its representatives for their concern and diligence. On Thursday, November 8, the negotiations yielded good fruit when the local unions, at the behest of the NLC, decided to call off the strike. But no sooner was the strike called off than the leaders of the local unions again asked the management for further negotiations where fresh demands were made which resulted in a deadlock. By now, members of management were being threatened by union members, insulting and threatening text messages had begun to show up on cell phones of directors of the company, there were threats that the new press will be destroyed, with indications that this was no longer just an industrial action, but an organised attempt to sabotage the company.
Still, management resumed negotiations with the local unions and the NLC. On Tuesday, November 13, another breakthrough was recorded, with the unions agreeing to accept the 20 per cent increase earlier offered by management, again at the behest of the NLC. On Wednesday, November 14, a workers' congress was held in the morning at which the workers resolved to return to work and accept the 20 percent salary increase offered by the management. All that remained was for a communique to be signed, and this was to take place the following day. Arrangements were also made for a resumption of operations. Surprisingly, the unions turned up on Thursday, November 15 with fresh conditions that although they had agreed to a 20 per cent salary increase, the payment should be backdated by about five months, and that management should sign an undertaking to accept other commitments. At no time were these fresh conditions part of the negotiations.
Management has learnt useful lessons from this experience. We have resolved to put the entire saga behind us. Last month, The Guardian as a company was 25 years old and this offered us the opportunity for reflection on how to position the business for the next 25 years. Before the industrial crisis, management was already working on a restructuring plan to strengthen its manpower and improve efficiency.
Today, The Guardian has the largest work force in the industry with about 800 workers and a generous incentives plan, in addition to a work environment where workers are given the freedom to realise their potentials to the fullest. It is time to take a second look at our operations so far and absorb the lessons of the past two weeks and their impact.
In keeping with this objective, The Guardian, on the professional advice of consultants working on the planned restructuring, has decided to fast track the plan. The company will, therefore, have to be completely overhauled to position its people, processes and structure in order to deepen its capacity to compete.
We apologise to the numerous loyal members of staff who have reaffirmed their commitment to the company�s vision and objective and expressed their dissatisfaction with the actions of the union leaders. We note their faith in our company�s values and ethos.
We promise that the process of restructuring, the ground work for which had been underway long before now, will be completed quickly, and The Guardian titles will be back on the stands and online shortly. This newspaper remains committed to the best traditions of journalism and free enterprise. We want to assure our numerous readers that we will return as a better and stronger newspaper, committed to the truth, the rule of law, and republican democracy, and the dignity of man. "What The Guardian Stands For", our mission statement, remains unchanged. Our commitment to the truth is unshakeable.
We thank everyone who has taken interest in our travails in the past two weeks, most sincerely. The life of a newspaper is like the life of a human being, full of surprises and ups and downs. In 25 years, The Guardian has had its fine and low moments, but like the Phoenix we have always risen to conquer adversity. This adversity will make us stronger and better. Very soon, you shall read The Guardian again.
This came off the official Guardian newspaper website.