Closing radio stations won’t solve impasse

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YOU know a government is becoming paranoid when it starts muzzling the media in times of crisis.
The government showed its paranoia yesterday when it temporarily shut down four private radio stations, including the two that are its mouthpieces.
Those responsible for this knee-jerk decision are ducking responsibility. They are blaming a technical fault for the blackout.
But managers say they were told that their radio stations were broadcasting hate speech and encouraging people to join the textile workers’ strike which started on Monday.
While we admit that some of our radio stations are sometimes overzealous and reckless, we don’t support their closure.
Yanking them off air is not the solution.
The quality of our radio stations is a debate for another day.
The problem at hand now is the strike that is threatening to hasten the collapse of the textile sector which is already on its knees.
That problem won’t disappear because radios stations, no matter how unprofessional they are, have been switched off.
While the government looks for scapegoats, an industry with the highest number of workers on its payroll is heading towards a collapse.
About 38 000 jobs are on the line but the government is busy with a witch-hunt. In fact, in the past three days the government has been blundering with startling frequency.
Faced with an angry mob of hungry factory workers, the government has started pointing fingers at the opposition.
The government’s argument, which we think is misdirected, is that there is a political dimension to this strike.
Why the government insists on seeing a bush where there is a forest only our leaders can tell.
That some politicians were bound to capitalise on the strike is obvious but it is not a problem that should concern a government that wants to find solutions to a labour issue.
The focus should be on the striking workers.
Instead of being paranoid the government must start addressing the causes of this strike before it degenerates into a full-blown political crisis.
While we understand that this is a labour issue between the factory owners and their employees we still think the government can play a crucial role in breaking the impasse.
It is clear that the workers are not happy with the minimum wage of M770 in the textile sector.
The employers have made it clear that they cannot afford the M2 020 that the unions are demanding.
But the government should not allow this dispute to threaten 38 000 jobs.
The government cannot give a M100 million bailout to the textile industry and then pretend that it cannot be involved when workers in the same sector strike.
The government must get those squabbling stakeholders to a meeting and hammer out a compromise deal for the sake of the textile sector.
And in those talks the government must not pander to the whims of either the workers or the factory owners. We know that the textile factory owners will resort to their old tactic of threatening to shut down every time a living wage is demanded.
That should not be allowed.
The unions too must not cling onto the fantastic idea that wages can increase by more than 100 percent without crippling the whole industry.
A compromise is what is needed.
Disgruntled workers are as toxic for business as unreasonable wage demands.
To get that compromise the government must be willing to get its hands dirty.
Pretending that this is a politically-motivated strike or that radio stations are aiding it will not get that job done. It’s in the government’s interest to deal with this impasse. If the textile sector collapses the government will have 38 000 jobless people baying for its blood.
That won’t be pretty for the government, the economy and political stability of this country.
Let’s have some leadership on this mess.

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