GPA concerned with positions taken by State Media in employee issues


The Guyana Press Association (GPA) says it is disturbed by the continuing inhumane positions and actions being taken by the National Communications Network against its employees, particularly Ms Natasha Smith and Mrs Jocelle Archibald-Hawke.



The Guyana Press Association (GPA) is disturbed by the continuing ludicrous, inhumane and degrading positions and actions being taken by state broadcaster NCN against its employees, particularly Ms Natasha Smith and Mrs Jocelle Archibald-Hawke.


By way of review, please consider these facts:


At a meeting with the GPA on September 6, 2016, the Chief Executive Officer Mr Lennox Cornette, along with his Human Resources and Programme Managers, vehemently denied that Ms Smith was removed as news anchor because of her pregnancy and gave an undertaking to the GPA that Ms Smith would be reinstated as news anchor. 2. After the meeting with the GPA, the Human Resources Manager apologised to Ms Smith and she was back on air the following day as the news anchor. 3. The minutes of the August 8, 2016 management meeting showed that Ms Smith was indeed removed by the CEO because of her “present condition” and instructed a “tight shot” to “remedy the view.” That decision was communicated to Ms Smith by other managers, who all understood the CEO’s direction to be that a pregnant Natasha Smith could not continue as news anchor.  4. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, on September 7, 2016, stated thus: “From information received and explanations given by the CEO, I am in no doubt that the removal of Ms. Smith was due to her state of pregnancy, and that the act is an attack on her as a woman and as a professional journalist.” 5. The Prime Minister, who has oversight of the state media, advised the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Communications Network (NCN) to tender an unqualified apology to Ms. Natasha Smith for using her pregnancy as reason to remove her temporarily as News Anchor. Mr Cornette issued that apology, expressing regret over the hurt and pain Ms Smith may have experienced.


The GPA was satisfied that Ms Smith was returned to anchoring the news.


However, the Association was appalled to learn that the management of NCN summoned Ms Smith to a meeting, in the presence of a consultant, namely Mr. Abraham Poole, Monday last to again address the issue and to deny that Ms Smith was removed from anchoring the news because of her pregnancy by this time suggesting that her clothing was “too tight.” Further, callously, Ms Smith was asked if she would be willing to retract her statement given the “explanation” she was given.


In addition, Ms Smith was being asked to disclose the names of the managers who informed her of the decision of the CEO at the management.


We salute Ms Smith for refusing to withdraw her statement of the events that followed the August 8, 2016, board meeting.


The GPA is disgusted that Ms Smith continues to be subjected to this sort of harassment and stress over an issue we thought was over with.


The matter has long been ESTABLISHED, as outlined above, that Ms Smith was removed because of her pregnancy and NCN’s latest attempt to resurrect the issue by dragging Ms Smith into the ugly episode she has been enduring for the past two months to seek to exonerate itself is most inexcusable. If NCN wants to do damage control, it would do well by NOT seeking to intimidate and harangue Ms Smith during this crucial time of her pregnancy.


Regarding Mrs Archibald-Hawke, the GPA supports her decision not to attend NCN’s management meeting without a representative of the Union.


NCN’s statement Wednesday that it was the company’s “compassion” that caused it to review the one-month suspension against Mrs Archibald-Hawke is most unfortunate. NCN should desist from flaunting lofty principles it is failing so miserably at by breach workers’ fundamental rights.


NCN can go to the moon and back about why Mrs Archibald-Hawke was suspended but the fact remains that Mrs Archibald-Hawke was suspended SOLELY on the grounds of a post she made on social media against another colleague; NCN should, therefore, drop the hogwash about her past record.


As far as the GPA is aware and NCN’s record could thus prove, Mrs Archibald-Hawke received an excellent performance rating just before she was suspended and received her gratuity in full; it was clear that whatever may have been management’s grouse with her in the past were never considerations for disciplinary action and by suggesting that her suspension had anything to do with her past infractions is disingenuous and an attempt to discredit her character and work, and to drag her through the mud.


The GPA maintains that:


Mrs Archibald-Hawke was never reprimanded by the company over her comments on social media 2. NO Social Media Policy exists at NCN from which any sanction can be imposed against staff.


The GPA maintains that the management of NCN is instituting willy-nilly sanctions against employees that are not grounded in any stated management directive or policy. We urge that this practice be discontinued forthwith.


Further, the GPA once again hereby issues a call for the intervention of the Chairman and Board of Directors of NCN and the Office of the Prime Minister to look into the operations of NCN.


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