News / 05.04.2013

Print journalists and employers kick off talks amidst hurdles

Linus Atarah

As the current collective agreement of print media journalists expires at the end of April, the UJF and VKL are preparing to enter into negotiations for a new one which would come into effect at the beginning of May.

The two parties have so far submitted only negotiating texts but according Arto Nieminen, President of UJF, the demands made by VKL prior to the actual negotiations on Monday April 8 raises doubts as to whether they intend to negotiate in good faith and reach an agreement.

The UFJ is negotiating on behalf of the 5000-strong print media journalists.

VKL which represents employers in the private media have already sounded out their opposition to any salary increase during the period of the agreement which expires at the end of September next year.

They have also proposed journalists’ summer holidays to be shortened by one week, a proposal viewed as “totally unacceptable” by UJF.

“It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest difference between us”, said Nieminen.

VKL, according to Nieminen, knows quite well UJF will not accept a shortened summer holidays for journalist and yet by making such a proposal it raises some doubt whether they would actually like to reach an agreement.

Reducing journalists’ holidays is a subtle way to increase working hours which is becoming a key demand by many employers here in Finland.

“If you are not on a holiday then you are at work”, Nieminen says.

Even though VKL has ruled out any salary increase in the coming collective agreement talks, UJF insists salary increase will be demanded because inflation has eaten up journalists’ income. UFJ has, however not yet decided on how much salary increase to demand.

“If you want to save jobs, it has nothing to do with not raising salaries. They cannot promise that not a single job would be lost if salaries are not raised”, says Nieminen.

VKL has defended its opposition to salary increase, saying that newspaper have been hit in recent years with loss of advertisement revenue; any salary increase would result in further job cuts.

But Nieminen says it could very well happen that jobs would still be cut even if journalists agree to a zero increase in salaries.

The Journalists Union on its part has proposed that the scope of the agreement be widened to include journalists who also produce television news in print media houses.

According to Nieminen, there are already newspapers which produce news for television, a practice which will become more widespread in the future. For instance, journalists in the biggest circulating daily Helsingin Sanomat also produce television news for Channel 4. But television journalists are covered by a separate agreement and so there is a need to harmonise the different set of agreements.

“There is no point in having two kinds of agreements in one company for instance, two different types of working hours and wage agreements”, he said.

But one demand of VKL that has caused consternation among journalists is its proposal to scrap part of the core journalistic code of ethics in the collective agreement.

The private media houses have suggested for instance, that a core ethical code which forbids disguising advertisement as journalistic texts be scrapped. Such a demand could provide chance for employers to pressure journalists to work against their professional ethics.

VKL has however, denied that it wants to scrap journalistic code of ethics arguing its inclusion in the negotiating text is only a “question of style”. 

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