Cameroon: CRTV Staff On Brink of Strike Action

Broadcast

The poor state of Government broadcasting in Africa is well illustrated by the threatened strike action at Cameroon Radio and Television. However, it is not clear whether there are real financial shortages or if some of the current managers are simply siphoning off funds for themselves tat ought to be used for programming.

Cameroon Radio and Television, CRTV, workers have called on their General Manager, Amadou Vamoulke, to improve their working conditions or grapple with an indefinite strike action. The warning is contained in a strongly worded petition that staff delegates sent to the General Manager on September 13. One of the delegates, who asked for anonymity, said the substance of the letter is a litany of workers' grievances, including unfulfilled promises made by the CRTV boss shortly after he was appointed in 2005.

Among other grievances, CRTV workers hold that since the rise of Vamoulke, the Corporation stopped paying part of the 13th month salary to them that is fondly known in the house as "C 40". This is 40 percent of the salary of the 13th month that is usually paid to workers of state corporations. The workers say banks are refusing to give loans to them, complaining that it is a non-insurable risk since the corporation is now under restructuring by an inter-ministerial committee.

The banks, they say, are afraid to give loans to CRTV workers since they do not know who will be sacked and who will not be sacked at the end of the restructuring exercise. CRTV workers say they are also angry about the fact that since Vamoulke came; advancements have no longer been coming. The suppression of leave allowances, they state, has only made things worse.

They said even though it is clearly stated in the corporation's statutes that the house will foot 80 percent of medical bills of workers, the reality is that some workers fall sick and even die without being able to have such a benefit because of administrative bottlenecks.

They claim that despite the fact that Vamoulke promised modern management of the Corporation, the handling of finances is laced in total chaos, in such a way that the money allocated for the production of certain programmes ends up in private pockets "Some Directors get the monthly budget for the production of programmes and end up embezzling the money," one staff delegate told The Post.

According to him, real producers do their job in total financial penury while certain Directors feed on fat from the budget. He said in certain departments working conditions are so bad that journalists even lack writing paper.

They hold that Vamoulke's modern management plan is a farce because he has taken upon himself to buy new equipment in the house while neglecting the well being of human resources. One of them stated that Vamoulke has a wonderful vision to modernise management techniques but lacks a strategy to make such a dream a reality.

Some people even argue that the finances of CRTV are dwindling because even those who are supposed to canvass for adverts still sit in their air-conditioned offices, thinking that advertisers will keep coming to them as if they were still enjoying absolute monopoly in the audio-visual media.

Due to administrative bottlenecks in CRTV, they say, many advertisers now prefer to do business with Canal 2, STV and other private television stations. But a source that is close to CRTV management said Vamoulke had good intentions for CRTV workers but was impeded by the financial difficulties that are currently rocking the national broadcasting house.

He said each time the General Manager planned to execute good reforms, some detractors connive with certain authorities to block them. Unlike his predecessor, Mendo Ze, Vamoulke is said to have a cold relationship with the former Minister of Finance, Polycarp Abah Abah. Such a situation allegedly made it difficult for CRTV to get money from the public treasury.

The CRTV GM is said to have promised workers during his visit of the Provincial Stations recently that he would start paying the C 40 before the reopening of the current academic year for workers to send their children to school with ease. The workers waited in vain.

The General Manager now seems to be in a fix as it is alleged that his collaborators unduly gave FCFA 50 million that was set-aside for the purpose to a board member of the corporation. The workers say they are angry because when the board meeting of CRTV held recently, nothing trickled out of it as to how management was planning to improve what they see as their appalling working condition.

(The Post (Buea), 20 September 2007)