The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed concern that one of the world’s leading news agencies, the Associated Press, may be looking to terminate deals it has made with unions across the globe.
Associated Press representatives in Mexico, where five union staff members have been forced to quit their editorial jobs and the company is trying to end the collective bargaining arrangement, have said they are implementing a global strategy to eliminate agreements with unions in its offices around the world.
In a telephone call with AP Chief Executive Thomas Curley this week, Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, sought clarification over the company’s intentions, but Curley refused to comment other than to say they would “work through” existing agreements.
“On such a serious issue, it is not enough to make no comment,” said White. “Unions who represent journalists and other editorial staff are rightly concerned at reports suggesting the company’s fundamental approach to working with unions is being changed.”
White contacted the company after an AP lawyer told union officials in Mexico that the New York-based agency AP has a policy in place to end the contract agreements with unions all over the world and to replace them with individual contracts that do not provide any labor protections.
“The shift from union rights to personal contracts creates a precarious system of employment,” said White. “When this happens it lowers morale in the newsroom and can also have an impact on the quality of the news service. The company needs to come clean over its policies and reassure all staff of its good faith in dealing with the unions.”
The IFJ and many of its national unions who represent AP workers fear that the Mexico dispute could be the first in a series of disputes with unions involving job cuts.
The controversy emerged after AP decided to eliminate five union jobs in its Mexico City bureau canceling also its bargaining agreement with the Mexican journalists’ union Sindicato Nacional de redactores de la Prensa (SNRP).
At the time, an AP lawyer told the SNRP that managers in Mexico were just carrying out orders from the New York headquarters to eliminate the jobs and the contract.
The IFJ says it will campaign vigorously against any and every effort by management to terminate collective bargaining agreements or eliminate union-represented employees.
“The reputation of AP is based upon its accessible and inclusive approach to management in which the staff, collectively, have a voice in the company and its development,” said White. “We hope very much that AP management will reassure all of its employees that it will maintain good relations with unions and it will stick by the agreements it has reached.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.