New labour relations, unemployment and the consequences in political, social and cultural terms were the subject of a conference organized by the Educational Foundation of the Athens Journalists Union.
The Professor of labour law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Aris Kazakos explained that the economic measures of the government would change the labour relations in the country. "The strategic goal of the so-called reforms to improve the competitiveness of Greek companies by reducing the domestic cost of labour per unit of product is the destruction of the system of collective regulations and the restoration of the violent individual labour agreements and even the right of the employer. And where individual agreements are not sufficient, the law provides for the abolition of collective bargaining."
Dismissals of journalists and technicians, closure of some newspapers, non-payment of salaries for months and the uncertainty about their professional future are threatening media employees not less than all the other Greeks, claimed unanimously all conference participants.
"Neoliberalism has won the battle on most fronts of social and ideological field. And we, as journalists have played an important and negative role," said the journalist from Kathimerini Christina Kopsini and indicated how surprised she was by the reaction of Australian airlines Qantas to respond to the strike of the employees with a strike by stopping all flights or by the so-called Lockout. "This means that all the old regulations are here. A while ago, Janis Kouzis told me that the lockout measure, which was abolished in 1982, most likely is very real. The truth is that nothing connected with labour relations could surprise us. For example, the latest important news came from the federation of the employees in Lavrentis Lavrentiadis’ pharmaceutical company Alapis. There are 1,400 employees at risk there. The company is about to go bankrupt. This will probably be the biggest collective redundancy, which could happen nowadays. However, if you look in the media, including the newspaper where I am working you will see that this news was covered very briefly."
According to Christina Kopsini, the first major loss for media representatives was that they themselves have created the preconditions for the introduction of any changes in Greek society. "If everything that has happened to labour relations in Greece the last year and a half had happened 3-4 years earlier, there would be revolution in the country. But today we see, however, that many of the changes are adopted more or less."
She criticized the position of the journalist union not to allow membership of young freelance journalists. "We are one of the few organizations that still have so stringent and bureaucratic restrictions on young people. In Germany and other countries of Central Europe, they have insurance and associations, while we are isolating them here."
Christina Kopsini described the state of employees in the Greek media particularly accurately. "All media employees are united under the common fear of losing their jobs. Actually, myths are over and the situation in the media is scary. We know what is happening in the Eleftherotypia newspaper, in Alter and other major broadcasters. For weeklies, things are worsening too. Recently, the editor of the newspaper "O kozmos tou ependiti" was fired because he was required to fire half of the staff of the newspaper, i.e. the contracts of all journalists who are paid against invoice to be void. Several other newspapers are published by the minimum number of employees."
She said journalists were not threatened more than any other employee in Greece was. The difference is in self-censorship that some of them would be forced to impose to keep their jobs. Of course, this would affect freedom of speech. She did not confined there, and self-criticised the majority of journalists who easily had responded to the "call" for profit, making serious impact on Greek society.
"I am saying this because the crisis and the defeat of labour relations have found rich soil in the Greek media. Long before the outbreak of the global economic crisis, journalists, and especially colleagues engaged with economic reports, have tried to fill people's heads with the basic tenets that we see happening today and threatening our professional environment. Here lies our suicidal attitude."
On the occasion of the recent dispute on whether journalists in state media could be considered civil servants, she said, "It is clear that journalists are not civil servants but they should work in accordance with public interest and I think this is something we have forgotten for years." Here she gave examples of all those journalists, who were and still are working in several places: in public and private media in parallel, sometimes in more than 2-3 media. "This picture does not affect all journalists, but it affects many of them and above all, those who we take as patterns of the profession – the prominent journalists. We know very well that when people hear something from one of them they begin to believe in it. From this perspective, I think we have to think much about what public interest is and what the behaviour of a journalist in the public space should be."