The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed today the first workshop organised by its member union in Palestine, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, bringing together its workplace representatives to prepare their first ever claim for a collective bargaining agreement in media in Palestine.
Twenty-five elected representatives met for two days in Ramallah to discuss the claim under the guidance of the UK’s National Union of Journalists organiser for Scotland Paul Holleran, with the support of IFJ president Jim Boumelha and members of the PJS board.
The training session is the first in a series of discussion and consultations following the signing of a momentous agreement last October by three major media in Palestine – the state-owned broadcaster the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (television and radio), the national news agency WAFA and the daily newspaper Alhayat Aljadeeda – setting out a road map committing these employers to conclude the first collective trade union agreement for journalists in the region.
“Although these newly elected workplace reps came together for the first time, they showed an exceptional grasp of labour relations and national and international standards. The PJS has now in place outstanding and talented negotiators fully capable to transform the working conditions within these media” said IFJ president Jim Boumelha.
The agreement, signed last October by Riyadh El Hassan, Chair of the PBC and WAFA board, Yahia Yakhlef Editor-in-Chief of Alhayat Aljadeeda Newspapers and Abdelnasser Najjar, PJS President and member of the IFJ Executive Committee, set out criteria for a national social dialogue with journalists' representatives on all aspects of social and professional working conditions of journalists and for collective agreements based on recognised core international labour standards, including:
• Recognition of public service journalism conducted in the public interest;
• Commitment to protect and advance editorial independence as the cornerstone of public service media;
• Setting quality media as a central objective guided by the core ideals of the mission of journalism and the highest standards of professional ethics.
The representatives of journalists agreed a blueprint for a model agreement they will take back to their respective workplace for discussion with all the journalists before submitting final claims to management.
It incorporated over 30 clauses ranging from the right to recognition to negotiate and act on behalf of journalists to the right to secure contracts of employment and job descriptions as well as substantial improvements including salary grids, equal opportunities, work-life balance and health and safety clauses.
Hailing the good will of these employers who agreed to enter intensive talks with the PJS to alleviate the yawning gaps that exist in the working conditions of journalists, PJS president Abdel Nasser Najjar said: “Having now agreed a model agreement, our next stage will be to train our elected reps to enter the negotiations armed with expertise and confident to be acting on behalf of their colleagues.
"It is a big challenge but we now have the capacity to negotiate our first collective agreement.”
The IFJ President, the NUJ trainer and a delegation from the PJS board subsequently paid a courtesy visit to President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss further the implications of these negotiations and the necessary framework for media and labour reforms such as the urgent need to decriminalise press offenses, overhaul the press laws to guarantee the right to information and to protect sources.
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The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries