The media industry has gone through revolutionary technological change, from big data to AI, from digital first to algorithms writing news. Such changes offer both threats and opportunities and has a huge impact on the way journalists work.
While new technologies offer such great opportunities to enhance journalism too many companies see it as a chance to do journalism on the cheap. In digital media, the recruitment of young and poorly paid journalists facing precarious working conditions has become the norm.
Today, issues such as job losses, low and frozen pay, poor health and social protections, pressures on ethical standards and a lack of security at work affect big and small media.
Digital media workers face increased pressures – more work, less time, fewer staff and a lack of resources.
But things are changing. The last few years has seen the biggest ever unionization drive by digital media workers. Across the world unions have been writing a new story.
1. Unions are winning better pay
- At VICE Canada workers negotiated for a minimum salary of $40,000 dollars a year for all employees and achieved pay increases of between 2 and 52%. They also increased pay for weekend and paid vacations
- At the Gizmodo Media group unions have secured 3% guaranteed annual increases
- At Guardian Australia unions negotiated paid overtime and pay rises of $2200
- The Writers Guild of America East secured a union contract with Gawker Media setting minimum salaries and guarantees of 3% raises each year.
- At Vice USA, the collective agreementset a $45,000 minimum salary, giving some writers an immediate $10,000, or 28%, raise.
- At Crikey! The union won extra pay for those required to work unsocial hours
2. Unions are reducing inequalities
- The agreement at the Gizmodo Media group also contains commitment to diversity issues in hiring and addresses ongoing concerns at the company with $20,000 annual funding for diversity initiatives;
- HuffPost’s first union contract contained a commitment to enhance newsroom diversity and ensure editorial independence.
- At US Gizmodo media group, the 2019 collective agreement introduced a gender-neutral parental leave of 12 weeks; includes improved protections against sexual harassment and the right to union representation in bringing a case of sexual harassment.
- At Guardian Australia the union secured extra rights to paid parental leave
3. Unions are winning for younger workers
- Vice Canada has introduced a minimum pay rate for interns of 15 dollars per hour
- At US Gizmodo media group, the 2019 collective agreement increased salary minimums with higher increases for lower paid employees to create more equity in pay scales and raise standards at all levels.
4. Unions are protecting freelance workers
- Vice Canada introduced a set of protections for non-standard employees including a requirement to convert contract employees to full time after 12 consecutive months in the same position
5. Unions are securing better redundancy terms
- The Huffington Post union agreement includes an obligation to pay employees two months’ severance, plus an additional week’s pay for each year of service in the event of lay-offs.