Strike at Angolan National Radio

Angolan National Radio staffers are set to go on strike on Friday, August 24, after the expiration of a deadline for negotiations between the management and the workers.

On May 24 this year, the local branch of the Angolan Journalists’ Union met with RNA employees, who collectively demanded a salary increase of around 300 percent, amongst other claims.

The coordinator of the union committee, Luísa Rangel, highlighted the desperate situation of many RNA professionals. She recalled how her colleague, the reporter Luís Tara, had committed suicide a year ago. “He went and stabbed himself in front of the chairman of the board’s office, to draw attention to his unbearable situation as a result of the humiliating treatment by the management.”

He was treated in hospital for the stab wounds, but then hung himself a few days later.

Ms. Rangel noted how Mr. Tara “with more than 20 years of experience was earning only about 60,000 kwanzas (US$600).” By way of comparison, she pointed out that a cleaner at Jornal de Angola, the state newspaper, earned practically the same salary as Mr. Tara.

According to Ms. Rangel, the RNA employees submitted their demands to the management on June 26, with copies delivered to the Ministry of Social Communication, the MPLA and the President of the Republic.

Aside from salary increases, the workers are demanding an end to the illicit use of their social security contributions, which for several years were used for private interests under the management of Manuel Rabelais. The employees are also demanding pension payments to the families of deceased colleagues who also had social security payments deducted from their salaries.

Regarding working conditions, Ms Rangel highlighted that “we don’t have protection against workplace accidents”.

“We have cases where three or four journalists are using the same computer because others are out of order. Sometimes the printing of news bulletins is barely legible for newsreaders because there is no toner for the only printer we have in the newsroom,” she added.

The chairman of RNA’s board, Henrique dos Santos, wrote a letter on August 9 expressing his interest in reaching an agreement with the employees. “However, RNA, as a company dedicated to serving the public interest through the delivery of a public radio service, has a special responsibility in the efforts of the Angolan nation to conduct the electoral process in an exemplary and peaceful way,” Mr. dos Santos argued.

According to him, “the board of RNA is completely dedicated to the success of the elections without in any way neglecting the concerns presented by the staff.”

As a practical response, the RNA management solely requested the extension of the deadline that the union had set down, asking for the negotiations to take place “after elections have been held, on a date to be agreed upon in advance by the parties.”

The workers’ committee rejected the management’s request but gave an extension of 20 days over and above the time limit laid down in the law governing strikes.

On August 13, the Inspector General of Labour (IGT) visited RNA to see how negotiations were progressing. According to the union, the IGT reported only that the company was cooperating and the case would have to be dealt with after the elections.

The workers agreed, on August 20, to declare a strike with effect from 7am. Their statement stressed that “all areas will be affected, with a picket to safeguard the news bulletins at 7am, 1pm and 8pm, Agenda Pública [the current affairs show], and the election campaign broadcast slots granted to political parties.”

“As long as the strike continues, radio broadcasts will be taken up with soft music,” the statement concluded.

Nevertheless, various efforts to prevent the strike have become apparent, including disinformation, intimidation, blackmail, deception, and other tactics that the union has noted and reported to Maka Angola.

“The journalists are the weakest link among the workers. They are also suffering injustice and stand in solidarity with their colleagues, but hide away so as not to damage their professional ambitions,” said one journalist who preferred to remain anonymous. “I have already shown my face and I am suffering the consequences in the workplace,” the journalist explained.

As well as being Angola’s largest media outlet, RNA is the main means of propaganda for President José Eduardo dos Santos’s government.