Italy's press strikes over freelancers' rights

Print journalists in Italy walked out off their jobs last week in a show of defiance against media publishers and employers curtailing the rights of freelance reporters.

Media unions throughout Europe were called to back the two-day strike, which followed with a walkout by TV journalists over freelancers' plight of poor pay and short-term contracts.

According to the European Federation of Journalists affiliate FNSI, the strike was ordered when the employers association FIEG refused to continue negotiations over a new agreement across the media sector.

Talks between the two parties reportedly broke down when FIEG withdrew a proposal seeking to protect freelance or "autonomous" writers, who are suffering from a dramatic decline in the number of regular employment contracts being awarded.

"This is a watershed moment for the defence of employment rights in media," said Arne K'nig, chairman of the EFJ.

"All over Europe, we see that the freelance status is increasingly used by employers to cut on social rights and labour standards."

It is believed that the FNSI and the EFJ are opposed to employers' decision not to adapt the Italian law on short-term contracts to the media sector, where the consequences of labour market deregulation are devastating, the unions claim.

They added that the conflict between employers and the media sector, its personnel and the Unions was "inevitable" because of their refusal to extend the law across the sector to include all freelance or autonomous writers.

"Journalists who have precarious employment conditions, and whose social rights are ignored cannot be expected to provide quality journalism," said K'nig.

"Today we have too many 'forced freelances' who need to be included in collective bargaining in order to have a minimum level of social protection".

FNSI said the conflict might be "difficult and certainly not brief."

"We know that these strikes may harm the industry and will deprive citizen from information", said Paolo Serventi-Longhi, general secretary of the FNSI, reflecting before the walkouts.

"But we have to defend our professional rights and social conditions. The future of the profession and the right of the public to have accurate and quality information depends on this."

 

14th October 2005

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