Suspicion Inhibits Journalists in New Zealand

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned about reports that newspaper employers in New Zealand have tried to undermine the working rights of journalists by illegally listening in on conference calls between the union and staff delegates.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which represents staff at APN newspapers, raised the complaint with police when phone records showed unauthorised calls were made into weekly phone conferences with staff delegates. The unauthorised calls allegedly came from a number used by APN daily The Hawke’s Bay Today and APN’s regional offices in Hastings.

At the time of the calls the EPMU was negotiating with APN New Zealand Ltd for collective agreements covering several APN Newspapers including Hawke’s Bay Today, Wairarapa Times-Age, the Wanganui Chronicle and the Chronicle. The conference calls were organised to allow authorised delegates from the workplaces to coordinate a bargaining strategy.

“It is a grave concern that an employer would stoop so low as to illegally eavesdrop on their staff during negotiations for collective agreements,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

Alarm bells rang at EPMU when APN management representatives involved in the negotiations were aware of matters that had only been discussed during EPMU’s conference calls. The phone records indicate that nine out of twelve weeks the unauthorised caller logged on to the call 10 minutes before its scheduled start time and was the last to log off.

“Fair working conditions are essential to maintain the integrity and quality of the New Zealand media but this can not be achieved in a climate of suspicion and paranoia. The IFJ urges New Zealand police to thoroughly investigate the claims made by the EPMU,” said Warren.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries around the world