BBG Watch Commentary
Sources told BBG Watch that in his communications with members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and BBG staff, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Vice President for Administration Dale Cohen seemed especially offended that Czech and other RFE/RL employees send anonymous letters to the board overseeing U.S. international broadcasting. These letters, he told the BBG, are full of untruths.
Mr. Cohen, however, must be kidding in suggesting to the BBG that anonymous letters from RFE/RL employees are somehow suspect because they are anonymous.
What does Mr. Cohen expect. Some RFE/RL employees who publicly questioned decisions of of the top management were fired. A young Kazakh woman journalist who asked RFE/RL president Steven Korn about the dismissal of Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow and later objected to offensive videos with sexually suggestive content being posted on the RFE/RL websites did not have her contract renewed.
Here is how an anonymous Czech employee responded to RFE/RL Vice President for Administration Dale Cohen:
“It seems Dale Cohen has same troubles with telling truth as Steve Korn when it comes to communicating with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, otherwise he would not have sent such lies to them in his email. Here is the refutation to his letter.
In July 2011 all Czech Employees received 4% Summer Allowance payment along withe their normal salary payment. In June 2012 we were told by Steve Korn that we would not get our annual allowance (even though it is part of agreement with our Union) because bureau people do not have private health inusurance. We do not have private insurance either. This was two weeks before allowance would have been paid. So many of us who were waiting on this money to pay for our summer holidays did not have funds to go away. This is why Summer Allowance was created as part of salary, to ensure money was available for resting with families. So we did get less money this year.
Yes, we did get a guaranteed 2% in December, and many people got more, but in December 2011 one third of Czech Staff got 4% bonus as part of Performance Awarding. So overall the Czech collective lost out on much money. So as we lost out on money, I question who got the money that should have come to us?
As for next year, the declaration we were demanded to sign in order to get half our Summer Allowance, read that it was a one time offer. So we do not believe we will get a guaranteed 2% allowance next year. Yes we signed, just like our colleagues in Moscow because something is better than nothing. Like our colleagues in Moscow we found it a distasteful reminder of old times. And like old times, we signed so that informers would not tell our bosses that we disagreed with them. So next year we can expect 4% less than last year and 2% less than this year.
True “Under the terms of our collective bargaining agreement, the Company had the right to modify the summer allowance bonus program; ” if Radio did not have money for them. Since money became available, 4% should have been given in its intended form. But instead Korn and Cohen changed rules to take money from we Czechs and give to whom? Themselves? If so, they are not just liars, they are thieves as well.
If the Board of Directors reads this, please order President Korn to reinstate our Summer Allowances so I can take my family to seaside next July!”
This response is to Dale Cohen’s comments quoted in this BBG Watch article:
RFE/RL management’s strained relations with Czech employees
BBG Watch has learned that a number of Czech employees of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague have sent an anonymous letter to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) complaining about their bonuses being cut and being treated by the RFE/RL management as if they were working in a communist country. Referring to a declaration the RFE/RL management reportedly requested the employees to sign to agree to a reduction in their summer allowance bonus, the authors of the letter wrote: “This is how elections worked during the communist times: almost 100% of people voted, because if someone did not vote, the party knew who it was.” The Czech employees also expressed solidarity with the fired Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow.
BBG Watch has learned that the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Vice President for Administration Dale Cohen, who was one of the executives involved in the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow and presented it as voluntary terminations, denied that Czech employees did not receive their bonuses and accused the authors of the letter of not telling the truth.
We are writing again about our letter from July, to protest about Steven Korn cutting the pay of Czech contract employees by taking away the summer allowance.
We understand that at your meeting this week you will discuss the situation in Moscow. We sympathize with the people who were fired in Moscow, but also hope that you will not forget about us.
Mr. Korn has cut the pay of Czech contract employees in Prague by 4%, as we describe in our letter from July. The money was already part of an approved budget. Instead of the summer allowance in June, we were offered a 2% “performance award” in November (for some people maybe more, if their supervisors approved). To get the 2% we had to sign a Declaration, “electing” to receive it and agreeing that it was a one-time payment. It said:
“I, ___, hereby elect to take part in the 2012 Performance Award Program. As a participant, I understand that for 2012 only I will receive a minimum performance award of 2% of my gross annual base salary and have the potential for a higher amount. By signing this declaration, I waive and release RFE/RL from all legal claims related to the discontinuation of the bonus program known as the “Summer Allowance” in 2012 and I confirm that I do not have any such claims against RFE/RL”
Of course people signed the Declaration, because 2% is better than 0%, but we felt forced to sign. If anyone did not sign, management would know who. This is how elections worked during the communist times: almost 100% of people voted, because if someone did not vote, the party knew who it was.
This program was announced by Dale Cohen, VP of Administration, and Donna Black, Human Resources Director. In an email announcing this, Mr. Cohen wrote: “… most employees supported greater investments in health care and better working conditions in the bureaus …”.
We disagree with “most employees”. Mr. Cohen did not ask us. If he asked, of course, we still would not feel free to disagree, just like in the communist elections.
The result is that beginning in fiscal year 2013 Czech contract employees have lost all of the 4%. We are already the lowest paid group of employees in Prague, and our pay has been cut. At the same time, as we understand, Mr. Korn still makes money available for extra advantages for himself and his friends in top management, for expensive travel tickets and hotels, high housing allowances, and other benefits.
Please correct this situation and return our missing 4% of pay.
BBG Watch has learned that Dale Cohen, RFE/RL Vice President for Administration, made the following comments on the contents of the employees’ letter to the BBG:
“It is not true that Czech employees received a pay cut in fiscal 2013. Many of our best performers received larger bonuses than they did under the summer allowance system and, on average, Czech employees did better.
It is not true that Czech employees have “lost all of the 4%” summer allowance.
It is not true that employees felt forced to sign the “Declaration”. In fact, the Declaration was required under the terms of the Agreement with the trade union. Trade union reps were uncertain about their ability to bind employees to the terms of the Agreement. So the parties agreed to have each employee review the terms and agree to the transition of the bonus programs.
Finally, it is not true that there is anything to “restore” for the Czech contract employees. Under the terms of our collective bargaining agreement, the Company had the right to modify the summer allowance bonus program; there was no entitlement to the bonuses or the 4% figure.”
According to sources, Dale Cohen wrote to the BBG: “All of our employees, ex-pat and Czech, will all be treated equally in one performance-based annual bonus program. That’s an enhancement for both the company and its employees.”
This looks to us like an organization in deep crisis. RFE/RL executives also presented a document to Radio Liberty employees in Moscow whom they wanted to fire, offering them no choice but to resign. They later claimed that these employees voluntarily agreed to be terminated and were treated generously and with great respect. Leading Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeeva, who witnessed the firings first hand, disagreed and accused RFE/RL President Steven Korn of treating his employees even worse than “repugnant wild Russian capitalists” treat theirs. Not to mention that the same RFE/RL executives used guards to prevent journalists from entering the Moscow bureau, sent them instead to a law firm, and later prevented them from saying good bye to their radio and online audiences of many years. No doubt Mr. Cohen would also question these facts. But we think they show perfectly well what RFE/RL top brass thinks of their employees, both in Moscow and in Prague.
Foreign RFE/RL employees — non-Czechs and non-Americans — working in the Czech Republic have even fewer rights than Czech employees. The RFE/RL management denies them the key protections of the current Czech labor law by insisting on using a provision of the communist era law that granted similar exemptions to Soviet companies in Czechoslovakia. Two former RFE/RL employees, both women, are suing RFE/RL. One of the lawsuits is in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.