The European Federation of Journalists today welcomed the establishment of the first European Works Council (EWC) created in the media sector of the Norwegian-owned company Orkla Media with subsidiaries in Denmark and Poland.
A year ago, the EFJ affiliate the Norwegian Union of Journalists (NJ) organised an Orkla Media Trade Union Seminar of Polish dailies in Warsaw. The aim of this seminar was to expand the existing European Works Council from Denmark/Norway in order to include journalists working with Orkla Press Polska.
The Norwegian company Orkla Media, with subsidiaries in Denmark, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, represents about 8,000 employees. In 2001, the Norwegian union managed to negotiate a solid agreement regarding a European Works Council covering Norway and Denmark.
This weekend the crucial extension of the EWC to its Polish employees was successfully completed in Warsaw with the election of the Committee of representatives of the Polish unions within Orkla Press Polska. The head of the Polish employees Committee is Piotr Koscinski, representative of Solidarnosc at the national daily Rzeczpospolita.
“It’s a major step in the establishment of pan-European structures for social dialogue in media,” said Renate Schroeder, Director of the European Federation of Journalists. “We hope that unions and management of other companies will follow this example. European Works Councils are an important tool for workers to participate in the functioning of their company and to fight for more transparency and information rights”.
The unexpected sale of two of Orkla’s newpapers in Poland – Slowo Polskie and Wieczor Wroclawia - to the German company Passauer Neue Presse (PNP), just prior to the meeting, caused concern among its employees about their future after the merger. PNP is a major German player in Poland and holds a dominant position for ownership of daily newspapers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“The concerns of the workforce in these two newspapers show exactly why we need information and consultation mechanisms in transnational media companies,” said Schroeder. “In the media landscape of Central and Eastern Europe, which is dominated by foreign capital, European Works Councils will help journalists and media workers to establish dialogue with their employers on crucial issues such as mergers or change of ownership.”
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The EFJ, a regional organization of the International Federation of Journalists, represents over 200,000 journalists in more than 30 countries.