The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists group, has protested to the Australian government over plans to undermine employment rights which it warns will “reduce morale within the media industry and compromise the atmosphere of professionalism on which independent journalism thrives.”
The IFJ has written a letter to Australian Prime Minister John Howard protesting that changes in labour law will make it easier for employers to fire staff and could have a distressing impact on thousands of people who work in journalism and the media industry in Australia.
“These changes will do nothing for press freedom, will do nothing for Australia’s reputation abroad, but will make work in the media sector more precarious than ever,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary today. “This is a charter for unscrupulous media employers to further exploit their workforce.”
The IFJ has joined with other union groups within the wider international union movement, particularly the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), in condemning the changes which they argue will do significant harm to Australia’s reputation and standing in the international community.
The proposed changes in employment rules will abolish protection from unfair dismissal for some 4 million workers employed in companies with less than 100 staff.
“Many media workers and journalists will be affected by this policy which will be discriminatory and will encourage companies re-structure operations in order to escape legal obligations,” said White in his letter to John Howard.
The government’s plan to keep unions out of workplaces will further undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively with their employer, says the IFJ, and is in clear contravention of ILO Convention 98. “Australia already stands in breach of this fundamental Convention, and the planned new legislation will increase the gap between Australian law and the country’s international obligations,” said White.
Another concern of the IFJ is that the new rules will ensure more workers are forced onto individual contracts, and workers who do not wish to sign such contracts will be intimidated through fear of dismissal.
“The changing of journalistic employment in this negative way will have an effect on the quality of media and journalistic standards by reducing morale within the industry and compromising the atmosphere of professionalism on which independent journalism thrives,” said White.
The IFJ says the government’s proposals would leave Australia at the bottom of OECD countries with respect to protection of basic workers’ rights and are detrimental to the conditions necessary for the exercise of professional journalism and will discourage creativity and innovation within the media sector.
“We know that in recent weeks, the Australian people, including members of our affiliated organisation the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, have shown great popular opposition to these proposals,” said White in his appeal for the Howard government to drop the plans to change the law.
To read the letter to Prime Minister Howard click here
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries