Unions seek clarity in Next Media deal

OPEN-DOOR::The employees of the four media outlets to be sold say they have been ignored by the group’s owner and potential buyers, and called for inclusion in the deal

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 3

Labor unions representing workers at Next Media Group’s businesses in Taiwan yesterday requested that the acquisition of the media outlets be made transparent to ease growing anxiety among employees.

The owner and prospective buyers have ignored worker demands and given lukewarm responses to questions raised by the unions, according to a statement released jointly by the labor unions of the Next Media units up for sale — the Sharp Daily, Next TV, the Apple Daily and Next Magazine.

In addition to a transparent purchase process, the labor unions also called for explanations and disclosures of any issues related to employees’ rights and interests.

They also urged Next Media Group executive director Cassian Cheung (張嘉聲) and the prospective buyers to start negotiations with the unions immediately and sign agreements that ensure editorial freedom and independence, regardless of the timetable for finalizing the sale.

Formosa Plastics Group chairman William Wong (王文淵), ChinaTrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) and Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) were expected to sign a contract on Saturday to buy the Next Media businesses for NT$17.5 billion (US$601.2 million), but the signing was postponed. Cheung said the delay was due to certain unsettled issues that required further discussion.

No timetable has been set for when the deal will be concluded, but Cheung said the delay did not indicate that any members of the three-member consortium are pulling out of the deal. Koo, Wong and Tsai were reportedly set to take stakes of 34 percent, 34 percent and 32 percent respectively in the media group, an Apple Daily report said yesterday.

However, the Financial Supervisory Commission recently asked Koo to limit his share of the deal to 20 percent, based on the principle of keeping the financial sector and media separate.

It also forbade him to lead and manage the business, the report said, resulting in a renegotiation of the stakes of the three parties.

Koo’s family controls ChinaTrust Financial Holding Co and he was once vice chairman of the company.