News / 17.09.2015

UJF says government policy proposals a new blow to media sector employment

Measures to be introduced by the new centre-right government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä to boost economic competitiveness undercut the terms and conditions of collective agreements for journalists.

The government plans to restrict annual leave to 30 working days, reduce the number of paid public holidays by two, and cut back on paid sick leave and overtime. The measures affect nearly everyone employed in the media sector.

The cut in annual leave is designed to boost productivity. But the adverse impact of weakening of the annual holiday entitlement “would be substantially greater than the government’s targeted five percent productivity increase,” said Petri Savolainen, the UJF’s head of advocacy.

The government justifies its undermining of collective agreements by saying that the move will increase employment. But the UJF counters that it is extremely hard to see how the government’s competitiveness policy will encourage employment in the media industry.

Some 200 journalists have been made redundant each year over the past seven years. Productivity has been increased through a brutal process of layoffs, and there is no end in sight to the constant redundancy negotiations. If the annual working time is extended by cutting public holidays and leave, it is likely that an even smaller workforce will be required to run the media sector.

“The trend in the media sector where the work piles up among fewer and fewer people will worsen,” said UJF president Hanne Aho.

While the UJF says that it is premature to anticipate all the effects of the government’s policy, it points out that the intention is clearly to shift the labour law system so that employees are in a weaker legal position compared to employers. The government envisages mandatory legislation to prevent trade unions’ freedom to negotiate collective agreements.

The existing collective agreements negotiated by the UJF are valid until autumn 2016. That is when new ones will be negotiated, including in most other sectors. The government’s new policies will take effect when the existing collective agreements expire.

“The negotiations will be difficult,” said Hanne Aho. “The government’s policy announcement has changed the negotiating climate. It’s a shame. The media sector should be in a decisive position concerning collective agreements.”

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