The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed a strike by journalists at the Croatian daily newspaper Voice of Istria in a crucial battle over workers’ rights and independent journalism in the country.
The IFJ affiliate the Croatian Journalists’ Union, which organises 117 workers at the Glas Istre Novine company, has called a strike tomorrow after nine months of turmoil at the paper which has seen a company buy-out, plans for massive wage cuts, job losses and internal interference in the work of journalists.
“This strike is a result of management ‘slash and burn’ tactics and a refusal to negotiate with the union,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The workforce refuses to see their rights wiped away by a company that has lost all sense of decency in its treatment of staff.”
In February this year the company – then called only Glas Istre Ltd – revealed a massive debt of more than 13 million Euros – much of it caused by reckless property speculation. Loans were raised to pay wages in a deal benefiting from links between the company and the local leader of the Istrian Democratic Forum, the party which has been in power for more than 20 years in the district of Istria, but journalists complain that when they tried to write about these links they were censored.
Then the company was sold to Albert Faggian, a local businessman who has been the subject of court investigations over his business practices, who restructured the organisation, nullified the existing and lawful collective agreement and cut salaries up to 40 per cent, an action ruled illegal by the courts in the summer.
The union has since tried to find a way out of the crisis, but in the face of intransigent management has been forced to strike. However another court ruling has limited the impact of the action by insisting that up to 20 workers must be available to work, a decision described by union leaders as “shameful.”
“It may appear complex, but this dispute could not be more basic – a vital struggle for labour rights, for transparency in media management, and for respect of the profession of journalism,” said White. ”Our members in the region and across Europe will do everything we can to support our colleagues.”
More information about the dispute can be obtained from: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 members in 125 countries