Chinese Pay-TV company, StarTimes hits by racism activities as Nigerians top executives quit

  • New CEO, Justin Zhang allegedly behind Nigerian Maltreatment

StarTimes, the Chinese-owned pay-Television company, has been hit by a gale of mass resignation of Nigerian staff over alleged naked racial discrimination and anti-labour policies.

Sources in the company disclosed that no fewer than five Nigerians in senior management positions and many middle-level managers recently resigned from the company over complaints of ill-treatment by their Chinese bosses, especially Mr. Justin Zhang, the CEO.

Among those who have resigned, sources disclosed, are Mr. John Esoimeme, former National Sales Director; Dare Kafar, Marketing Director; Israel Bolaji, Head of Public Relations; Habeeb Somoye, Marketing Manager; and Ayokunle Idowu, Content Marketing Manager.

Justin Zhang, the CEO StarTimes allegedly fingered in the crisis

A major complaint of Nigerians in the company is the disparity in the conditions of service, including remunerations. A Nigerian, who joined the company as a university graduate seven years ago, said 80 per cent of Nigerians in the company have not benefited from any significant promotions and pay rises in the last five years.

Beneficiaries of significant promotions and pay rises, she said, have been those in the habit of spying on their colleagues and passing on information to their Chinese bosses.

“These are issues we have been battling for years. Even the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) once picketed StarTimes office in Lagos office over anti-labour practices. Nigerians are really treated poorly here compared to their Chinese counterparts. There are sharp differences in salaries, working conditions, and benefits such as insurance policy and promotions. Arbitrary demotion of Nigerians is also a common practice. The company is simply bereft of corporate governance,” she said.

Aside from the gulf in service conditions/remunerations, Nigerian staff of the company also complained that their compatriots in senior management positions are treated like filth by the CEO, the reason they have been resigning one after the other.

Mr. Zhang, the CEO, is said to be intolerant of opposing views and in the habit of sacking Nigerians on the spot whenever they offer a dissenting position.  A major victim of Mr. Zhang’s intolerance was said to be Mr. Olumide Olawuyi-Oke, described as a brilliant sales manager. He was relieved of his appointment on 18 September 2016 after disagreeing with Mr. Zhang during a management meeting. The CEO was said to have summoned him into his office after the meeting and announced to him that his services were no longer required.

A female employee in the Dealer Sales Department said the Chinese bosses have a very low opinion of Nigerians in the company and are always boasting that if they resign, other Nigerians will happily replace them, as the country’s unemployment situation makes the company attractive.

She equally claimed that most of the Chinese bosses are less qualified and experienced than Nigerians, who work under them. According to her, it takes as few as three months after employment for a Chinese to be appointed a director overseeing better qualified and more experienced Nigerians.

Mr. Esoimeme, the former National Sales Director, was said to have resigned because he was demoted to the position of Regional Sales Director and transferred to Kaduna to create space for two Chinese employees, Messrs. Thunder Lei and Mr. Boby Wang, both of whom joined the company less than a year ago.

Lei and Wang, both appointed National Sales Director, reported to Esoimeme before his demotion-induced resignation. The demotion was said to have had the full blessings of the CEO who, as Vice President of Marketing/General Manager of the Lagos office, was considered by the business as a better fit than for the top job than his predecessor, Mr. Jack Liu, who was viewed as too soft.

A former employee said the company is akin to an ethical free trade zone complete with fraud and deep-seated racism. Many Chinese employees of the company, he said, have neither the required immigration papers for residence nor professional licences/locally required certificates to perform their local roles in Nigeria.

Mr. Zhang, he said, was Vice President (Marketing) for over three years without Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) certification, licence or membership, a reason for which he was queried by the body.

The former employee, who worked with StarTimes for five years, said Chinese employees, fresh out of the university, enjoy meteoric rise, while Nigerians are made to stagnate. Those who get promoted to top positions, he explained, have neither power nor influence, as only Chinese call the shots.

“For instance, every January, the Chinese bosses travel to China for their New Year festivity. Before they travel, they would announce a junior Chinese staff to run the company in their absence despite having Nigerian directors. No structure, no hierarchy; only Chinese and Nigerians,” he said.

In December 2015, Mr. Berlin, the Logistics Manager in Lagos was announced as the acting General Manager of the Lagos office by Mr. Zhang, then Vice President of Marketing, placing him above two Nigerian directors, Messrs. Kafar and Esoimeme.