FECOLPER and the International Federation of Journalists reject and repudiate the practices performed by some employers in Colombia which downplay the labor rights of workers in the media sector, breaching national regulations and disregarding the treaties ratified by the country, in detriment to the employment of journalists and the right to information as an essential public service.
The FECOLPER Platform for Attention to Journalists, in its campaign to detect possible labor abuses, reviewed employment contracts, collected documentary evidence and analyzed them according to the current legal system, detecting the following irregularities in labor matters on the occasion of COVID-19:
- The imposition of unpaid licenses unilaterally, with coercion or under constraints of employers. It is noted that unpaid leave is an alternative to the health emergency due to COVID-19, but the worker must necessarily express his/her free, spontaneous and without urgency will to take it. Fecolper highlighted that some employers forced workers to sign these types of licenses, others threatened not to pay their workers' wages if they did not sign them, this being illegal practices.
- The modification of the working day with a decrease in a value or in a percentage of the worker's salary, demanding the same amount of work or even a greater amount of it.
- The overload of work and the assignment of activities outside the usual hours of the worker. According to Colombian labor law, the employer must respect the volume and the schedule of the worker who is teleworking or working at home, meaning, these conditions must be similar to those that the journalist had when he/she carried out his/her activities in person in the media outlet.
- The decrease of the worker's salary in the telework modality, while demanding the same tasks and the same performance.
- The suspension of employment contracts arguing the configuration of force majeure or fortuitous case without giving notice to the Ministry of Labor and without analyzing other alternatives more favorable to the worker that allow him/her to continue executing journalistic work in the midst of the pandemic. It was observed that some employers affirmed that it was “impossible” for journalists to carry out their activities, however, the only official who can decide whether or not the situation can be configured by force majeure or fortuitous case is the labor judge.
- The unjustified use of the situation to make dismissals and unilaterally terminate direct employment contracts and of workers on mission, disregarding all the rights and benefits granted by labor legislation.
- The individual and massive dismissal of workers without any type of compensation. However, in Colombia, COVID-19 has not been declared as force majeure or as a situation that allows workers to be dismissed with just cause.
- The absence of optimal health conditions and of measures for the prevention and mitigation of the virus in the media facilities, requiring journalists to buy with their own resources the hygiene and biosafety elements for personal protection.
- The requirement to cover news regarding COVID-19 and other information of public interest that involves the movement of journalists through cities and municipalities, without providing them with tools such as face masks, alcohol, antibacterial gel, instrumental and equipment care material necessary in the development of reporting services.
- The imposition of functions and obligations subsequent to those initially signed in orders for the provision of services with contractors (Journalists), which go beyond the scope of the agreement. While the contracts for the provision of services in Colombia are governed by civil law, the contractor must respect the agreed clauses and the conditions established by common agreement.
For FECOLPER and FIP, all the practices described above and that have been applied by some employers during the period of national emergency, are lethal for journalists and other workers in the sector. It is surprising that, as of the date of this pronouncement, only one complaint from the total number of instants is being talked, which reveals the lack of speed of the inspection system in Colombia, while, unfortunately, the rights of workers continue to be violated.
Representing workers in the media sector, the organizations:
- Express that the reduction of advertising is a reality that the sector faces, but in no way can the solution focus on measures that affect the labor rights protected by the legal system. It is inadmissible that many companies hide behind the indisputable drop in their income, due to the reduction or absence of advertising, to violate the conditions of workers in the national and regional media.
- Urge employers of journalists and other workers in the sector to refrain from engaging in harmful practices that can lead to significant pecuniary sanctions, aggravating the difficult economic situation experienced by most of the media.
- Warn that if a situation like the one described persists, the damage to employment and journalistic activity will be irreversible. In circumstances as unpredictable as those currently faced, the employer must refrain from abusive practices and from making arbitrary decisions, because it is in these difficult times when, with greatest reason, solidarity must be maintained and respected with all the workers and their respective families, who are the workforce that drives the development of the media.
- Remember that the right to the information is an essential public service, and the realization of journalistic activities and the dissemination of information can be carried out through digital channels, which do not at any time downplay the prerogatives that the worker has in force of the employment relationship.
- Ensure that the reality of formal employment is compounded by the critical situation of independent workers who do not have sufficient resources to continue to assume the payment of their contributions to the Comprehensive Social Security System and especially maintain health coverage in these times of crisis.
- Demand that all employers of public and private companies take the appropriate measures and promote journalistic practice, protecting all their workers by preserving employment and taking precautionary measures, since it is a high-risk activity and with greater exposure to the virus, as warned by the Attorney General of the Nation and the Ombudsman.
- Value the complaints that journalists from all over the country made confidentially, anonymously and repeatedly, and that they trusted the Colombian Federation of Journalists to denounce the serious actions taken by their employers, in detriment of their labor rights.
- Pledge to follow up on the complaints presented, as well as to reveal the results of the investigation that measures the decent work conditions of journalists in Colombia, under the four strategic objectives that comprise it: employment opportunities, fundamental rights in the work, social protection and social dialogue.