What journalists unions, governments and employers must do to defend freedom of association?

Journalists from across the Balkans and Eastern Europe met in Belgrade (Serbia) from 10 to 11 October to discuss the status of journalism in the region and the campaign for freedom of association to enable journalists to freely organise in unions. They discussed the struggles facing journalists, the precariousness of their employment, the low salaries and poor contracts the hostility of employers to journalists unions and the pervading climate of insecurity and fear. This is a struggle not just for improved conditions for journalists, but for a healthy and vibrant journalists sector that can play its democratic role in serving the public with independent, ethical and timely information. Participants congratulated – The journalists unions Ukraine (IMTUU & NUJU) and Russia (RUJ) for their leadership in co-ordinating their support for journalists in conflict: – The Montenegrin journalists union (SMCG) in their successful labour case against the daily Vijesti (Ringier) – The Macedonian journalists (SSNM and ZNM) in their victory for the freeing of Tomislav Kezarovski – The Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) for their struggle for journalists’ rights and sent solidarity to journalists in Turkey in the current turbulent period. In particular, participants – Emphasised that it is impossible to have quality, independent journalism without decent working conditions. Professional and labour rights are indivisible. – Condemned the arrogant behaviour of Ringier Axel Springer and the issuing of mass redundancies and downgrading of staff in 2015 in its Serbian companies. – Welcomed the study on precarious workers in media developed by the ITUC in Serbia that highlights the crushing economic conditions in which today’s journalists are expected to work. Conclusions The participants agreed the following conclusions to their Freedom of Association campaign Journalists unions must Counter the culture of fear and insecurity in the media – Prioritise recruitment and services to members – Develop effective legal assistance with a strong education programme for journalists on their labour rights in employment disputes – Unite – union and associations together – in the joint struggle for professional and labour rights. – Build coalitions with the broader trade union movement both in the media sector and beyond – Generate international solidarity and exploit networks in multinationals for joint campaigning – Use the crises of mass redundancies to raise the profile of the unions and their importance in addressing the unscrupulous conditions of employment. – Win small victories – whether in the law courts or in organising in the work places with favourable employers – to build the national movement. Participants called on Governments toReform labour legislation to ensure they respect international standards and are favourable to the decent work agenda. These laws must backed up by effective implementation through well-resourced labour inspectorates and independent judiciaries. – Take strong action against employers who violate labour laws through illegal contracts and who act against the free organising of trade unions – Create conditions for national social dialogue Reform the legal system so that labour cases can be treated quickly and effectively and at minimum cost. Participants called on Employers to – Allow unions to organise freely – Respect labour laws and ensure all staff are fully and legally contracted Recognise union representatives in negotiations over collective agreements Participants further called on Intergovernmental organisations – the European Union, Council of Europe and OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to ensure that freedom of association and decent labour conditions are a central criteria in their assessment of the state of press freedom and their media development strategies. Participants asked the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) to continue to: – Lobby for freedom of association and strong labour rights – Develop programmes to support journalists unions – Develop programmes to strengthen international solidarity and support in multinational media between journalists unions Recommend that the continuation of the freedom of association campaign and organising events on the extent of the problem in further countries of the region. Finally, participants thanked the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Union to Union for their support to the meeting and the ongoing campaign to strengthen journalists unions and labour conditions.

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