European Journalists Urge Swiss Publishers to get back to the Negotiating Table

The European Federation of Journalists today accused Swiss media of maintaining an unacceptable blockage on Social Dialogue with the trade union and journalists’ association in the press sector.

The EFJ is fully supporting the Swiss colleagues and is calling on its 250,000 members in national organisations throughout Europe to support its two Swiss affiliates as they prepare for fresh negotiations.

The leadership of the EFJ met today in Lucerne and expressed its great concern about the situation journalists in Switzerland face regarding the absence of a regulatory framework in form of a national collective agreement (GAV=Gesamtarbeitsvertrag) in the German and Italian speaking parts of the country. Due to a continuing refusal by the publishers to renew the national collective agreement for journalists and technical editorial staff, which expired in August 2004, journalists face a situation of legal uncertainty unheard of in most of EU and EFTA member states. Regulation of minimum wages and fees has been the central focus of all collective agreements since 1918.

At a press conference in Lucerne organised by both of the EFJ’s affiliates, impressum and comedia, Arne König, Chair of the EFJ said: “The press employers in one of Europe’s major media markets, motivated by greed and self- interest, are planning a savage attack on the social fabric of Swiss journalism by attempting to destroy the cornerstone of Social Partnership, a new national contract. “If they succeed, it will threaten social but also democratic standards right across Europe.”

The international response follows a difficult phase of attempts to have dialogue from the side of the unions and the systematic refusal by the publishers to discuss wage and fee issues for both staff and freelance journalists. For EFJ members it cannot be accepted that collective agreements are negotiated without discussing wage issues (minimum standards).

In other European countries, like in Germany, Norway and Sweden, strikes in recent years have led to decent agreements that could guarantee social peace and a framework for professional journalism.

“The implications for journalism across Europe are enormous”, said König.