European Journalists Protest Over Swedish Bid to “Down-Size” Freelance Rights

The European Federation of Journalists, the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, today condemned one of Sweden’s leading daily newspapers Dagens Nyheter which is trying to slash the payments it makes to freelance writers – just because it has changed the paper to a tabloid format.

“This attack on freelance rights gives a new meaning to the term ‘down-size’,” said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary. “Using the argument that going tabloid justifies cutting fees is absurd. The management wants exactly the same amount of work but at a cut-price. It is completely unacceptable.”

The EFJ is supporting its affiliate the Swedish Union of Journalists, which together with the Swedish Writers’ union is now negotiating on behalf of their freelancing members, mainly art critics, who are affected by the company’s attempt to cut fees by 20 per cent.

This issue has been on the table since earlier this year and it has taken several months for the two unions to convince Dagens Nyheter to negotiate. They were finally convinced when freelancers themselves formed a strong and unified protest group.

Dagens Nyheter recently changed from broadsheet to a tabloid format and this was reflected in the talks between the paper and the freelancers. The company said the new format meant shorter texts were needed and thus they were justified in paying less.

Union leaders reject this argument.

“The fact is freelancers who work for Dagens Nyheter are asked to do exactly the same job, and write shorter for less money,” said Agneta Lindblom Hulthén, President of the Swedish Unions of Journalists. “But all writers know that it is just as hard, if not harder, to do this than to write long. We cannot accept that our members should be paid less for the same amount of work.”

With a number of leading broadsheet dailies in Europe now looking at changing to tabloid format – in the UK two main titles, The Times and Independent, have already switched – there are fears that similar disputes may arise elsewhere. “We fully support our Swedish colleagues in their efforts to reach a settlement,” said White. “These cuts are without any justification.”

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The EFJ represents more than 200,000 journalists in over 40 countries