The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, today welcomed a ground-breaking commitment by the Irish government to bring in a new law giving freelance journalists the right to collective representation by trade unions.
The commitment was secured by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as part of the national partnership agreement recently finalised in Dublin.
The campaign was led by the EFJ affiliate, the Nation Union of Journalists, and another sister union, SIPTU and was supported by the European Federation.
The EFJ has been fighting for years at national and European level for the rights of freelance media workers and believes that collective agreements for freelance workers do not distort the market to such an extent that they undermine competition policy, said EFJ President Arne König.
"This is a watershed commitment, which hopefully will soon become legislation, because it destroys the employer argument that freelance journalists are only self-employed business people and not, as the unions argue, wage-earners with bargaining rights," König said. "We congratulate the Irish unions and are sure that trade union members in Ireland, who are currently voting on the entire agreement, will support it."
Social partnership agreements are negotiated by the Irish Government, employer bodies and trade union representatives. The latest agreement covers pay in the public and private sectors and also includes a range of commitments on social and economic policy. The specific commitment in relation to freelance workers obliges the government to bring forward legislation enabling voice-over actors, freelance journalists and session musicians to be collectively represented in negotiations before the end of 2009.
It is part of a package of employment rights measures. These include a government commitment to outlaw victimisation of union members in non-union companies. New legislation would also stop anti-union employers offering ‘inducements' aimed at forcing people to give up their union membership. There is also a commitment to strengthen legal rights for workers in non-union companies.
The EFJ Freelance Expert Group meeting on October 10 in Brussels concluded with an alarming analysis of the status of freelance journalists in Europe. Freelances are seeing demand for their work skyrocket at the same time that their compensation is slashed as media companies try to find the cheapest possible ways to hire them.
In August 2007 the EFJ welcomed a crucial court victory in Denmark by the Danish Labour Court, which ruled that a union blockade of the magazine publisher Aller A/S is not contrary to labour law, because of its policy of trying to impose non-negotiated contracts on freelance journalists.
For more information contact the EFJ at +32 2 235 2202/00
The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries