Covid-19 quandary at Future Media

By Shallot Mohutege

FUTURE media employees are at loggerheads with their employer who they blame for exposing them to Covid-19, Confidente has learnt.

In the past week, the media group which owns Fresh FM, Radiowave, Omulunga radio, Nova and Jacc FM has had rising cases of Covid-19, a situation employees say has been as a result of negligence by the Chief Executive Officer of Future Media, Gary Stroebel who last week allowed an employee who was awaiting his results to come back to work.

The employee (name withheld) later got his results and tested positive.

A source close to the matter who opted to remain anonymous said: “Stroebel sent one of our co-workers to get tested and allowed him to come back to work while he was still waiting for his results, therefore putting everybody else at work at risk. And since then, there has been a number of positive cases coming up.”

The source added that management should have at least informed them of what was going on so they could be better prepared on how to deal with the situation.

“We no longer trust Mr Stroebel and the management team and the agenda of the company.” further stated the anonymous source.

In a leaked WhatsApp work group chat when questioned on why he allowed the employees to go back to work while awaiting their results, Stroebel expressed that the said employees were asymptomatic and therefore made a poor judgement of bringing them back to work.

“The guys wanted to return to work after they had gone for testing and since they had no symptoms I said okay. They got tested on Wednesday morning and I believed that they would get their results by Monday. So I said they should come in late Monday. I mean there were no symptoms and by Monday it would have been seven days since contact.”

Stroebel further stated in the chat that if the employees are looking for anybody to blame they should indeed blame him and that it is absolutely his fault.

“I didn’t spend enough time thinking about all possible ramifications and what could happen. As it turns out, we only got those results much later than we expected,” he said.

When asked on whether management knew the said employees were waiting for their results, Stroebel expressed that they did know the said employees were waiting for their results and his assumption was it would not take more than four days to get the results.   

“I made an assumption that was incorrect. It took longer than expected. Also please note that I thought one of the employees who tested positive was not back at work, my fault entirely, I didn’t follow up on it. We assumed he was away and that one of his co-workers was standing in for him. I don’t know why we assumed that,” expressed Stroebel in the chat.

Stroebel stressed that it is important to note that the said employees were asymptomatic and there was no indication of a serious problem.

“The very moment we knew one of our co-workers was positive and had been at work, we kicked into action. In the studios the hygiene methods have been followed. The studios have been disinfected and there has been a very low risk of contact … we are operating as remotely as possible.”

Stroebel expressed that individuals have a choice to work from home and they are not forcing anybody to do anything they do not want to do.

When Confidente approached Stroebel for comment, the Future Media boss said: “You must appreciate that asking medical questions about specific staff members is very difficult to answer.  They have a right to privacy around these matters. Your version of events is entirely inaccurate. I cannot however correct your version without communicating details that will impinge on the rights of our staff to medical privacy, especially with a media enquiry.

“I can confirm that there have been a few positive cases amongst our staff, which has resulted in us closing the offices last week Wednesday and twice sanitising the whole building. We have followed the MOHSS guidelines with regards to staff that have had a suspected contact, especially for those displaying no symptoms. We are currently following all appropriate guidelines with regards to these positive tests.”