Estonia Works Council Highlights Drive for Cross-Border Media Solidarity in Europe

The European Federation of Journalists, which this weekend meets in Greece for its three-yearly review of union work across the continent, today welcomed the commitment of journalists in Estonia to build a works council in the Norwegian media corporation Schibsted, which has major holdings in Estonian newspapers and broadcasting.

The Estonian Union of Journalists has nominated leading journalist Kalev Vilgats to represent editorial staff in the works council which will be formally elected on April 19-21.

“In a few weeks Estonia will be formally part of the European Union and journalists are determined to be part of the cross-border solidarity that comes with EU membership,” said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary. “Similar initiatives in the last years in Poland, with the Orkla company, which also has holdings in Norway show that the countries of Eastern Europe are on the verge of exciting change, in which transnational solidarity will be the way forward.”

The EFJ has recently produced reports showing extensive foreign holdings in many media of the countries of eastern and central Europe that will be joining the EU on May 1. “Journalists in this region must now take the fast track to trade union development and works councils will be an important part of the process,” said White.

The election of Schibsted Works Council is the first important step for implementing European Union social policies in Estonian media companies. Although Norway is not bound by the EU works council law, it is following the standards that can have an impact throughout the region. The Estonian Journalists Union says the electoral process itself and following work of the Council will encourage journalists to learn the basics of European labour relations.

The union nominated its board member, editor of the opinion department in the daily Pärnu Postimees, Kalev Vilgats, who they say has the experience, knowledge and contacts to serve as an effective representative of his Estonian colleagues according to Ene-Maris Tali, chairman of the Estonian Union of Journalists.

Schibsted has the biggest stakes in the Estonian media sector controlling via Eesti Meedia fully Estonian biggest daily Postimees, Kanal 2 TV-station, a couple of regional dailies and the country’s largest printing plant Kroonpress. However, elections will be not apply to Estonian biggest tabloid SL Õhtuleht and major magazines publishing group Ajakirjade Kirjastus, both of which Schibsted controls 50%.

The issue of trade union rights in the enlargement countries and building solidarity among journalists across Europe will be a highlight of the two-day EFJ meeting in Thessaloniki, which will also be a curtain-raiser for the global congress of the International Federation of Journalists which will take place in Athens next month.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries