A programme of co-operation between journalists' and media workers' unions representing the workforce in multi-media companies in Europe is to be set up to confront the challenge of media globalisation.
More than 40 journalists and trade union officers from 18 European countries agreed to work together to provide practical solidarity to unions in dispute and to share vital information on recruitment, organising and collective bargaining issues.
At a meeting this weekend in Brussels, also attended by representatives of the ETUC, the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD and the Dublin Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions, the union leaders focused on urgent actions that are needed to define a European agenda to deal with globalisation issues.
Aidan White, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists, said that the well-established social welfare model of European political and economic life was under intolerable pressure from deregulators and the consequences for journalism and mass media were potentially disastrous.
"Working conditions are being diminished in the name of 'flexible employment' and the mission of journalism itself is under attack from those who want to destroy the traditions of authors' rights protection and the ideals of public service broadcasting," he told the seminar, which was organised with the support of the European Commission.
"This seminar could not be more timely", said Granville Williams from the UK-based Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, who reported on the complicated ownership structure of global and European media companies.
As part of the new programme a detailed outline of ownership patterns in Europe is to be created.
The future of broadcasting and the revision of the Television without Frontiers Directive will be paramount when setting the framework for the future European audiovisual landscape, he warned.
The seminar also examined a case study that has for many symbolised the employment and professional crisis facing journalists – the activities of the free newspaper group Metro International, which operates in many European capitals and often with little regard for social and employment rights of staff.
The meeting agreed to contact the management in Stockholm and to seek European-wide discussions with the company to improve social and professional standards.
Two months ago the company closed its Zurich operation without any prior consultation or information to staff. The EFJ appealed to Metro to negotiate acceptable redundancy schemes, but this was not done and now the EFJ's Swiss affiliates are taking the company to court in Switzerland.
The meeting also agreed that the programme of co-operation – which will see the evolution of a web-based series of information initiatives – should also involve targeting worst-case companies who are abusing workers' rights. The EFJ plans to use the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies, signed by all EU members and a number of applicant countries, to expose those companies that are ignoring guidelines for good corporate behaviour in OECD countries.
The EFJ programme will be presented to the annual meeting of EFJ unions when they meet in Brussels on June 14th and will cover issues of media concentration, actions to protect quality of journalism, online journalism, freelancing and new organising strategies for the unions.