The Best of GRReporter
flag_bg flag_gr flag_gb

Journalists in Athens turn their backs on their union representatives

02 February 2012 / 18:02:09  GRReporter
4370 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

A few days ago, journalists in Athens unpleasantly surprised the supporters of the nihilistic position that all their problems would be solved by holding a general strike for an indefinite period of time.

"The furious lost. Those who call the whole guild to mass suicide," journalist Dimitris Triandafilidis described the situation with just a few words. The proponents of the idea to quieten the media have not resorted only to verbal attacks. They have even made threats of beating against Ilias Kanelis, a board member of the Union of Journalists, who spoke with GRReporter about the developments.

The crisis in the Greek media had begun several years ago. A new collective agreement has not been signed for three years already, despite the significant changes that occurred mostly in connection with the emergence of new forms of electronic communication. While some of the largest media companies were collapsing, the Union of Journalists in Athens failed to arrange the working conditions of journalists and their salaries.

The economic crisis has only made the situation more difficult. "As a result, the previous board of managers has destroyed any effort for negotiations between journalists and their employers. In my opinion, this happened because of the excessive way in which we were forced to place our demands. I call this course of action "revolutionary gymnastics," said Ilias. "Board members have indulged in this kind of protest with the aim to demonstrate a serious response. Publishers, of course, took advantage of it."

The situation of media in the country is still unclear and in the steadily deteriorating conditions of the crisis. "When we decided to go and negotiate with publishers, they had no intention of holding a serious discussion with us, and at the beginning of our negotiations, they proposed a 20% reduction in wages. The leadership of the Union responded with generalities about the dignity of journalists and insisted on zero wage increases, while at the same time, media companies went bankrupt and many colleagues remained unemployed. As a result, the dialogue with the few "healthy" media worsened."

Meanwhile, a TV station and some of the largest newspapers went bankrupt. "Other smaller media are on the verge or have already fired many journalists or owe them unpaid wages. In this situation, we should save the jobs of our colleagues and some of the media in order to survive the crisis. This is especially true in the case of media that offer the most objective information and others that are interested in the things behind the big headlines. Personally I think it is important to have editions that provide a platform for prominent personalities from the social and cultural life."

Another opinion, which had taken precedence in the board of the Union of Journalists, believes that these are all details. Its supporters believe that Greek journalists have to go on strike to "claim everything". "I know that you can ask everything from healthy companies that are able to give you all these things. Otherwise, you simply undermine, sabotage and lead them to catastrophe."

This was the topic of the general meeting held last week and for this purpose the media kept silence from 10 am to 6 pm. According to Ilias Kanelis, it was not convened in the most legitimate way. "They found various ways to present a proper disposal of funds, the meeting began with the participation of 900 people and there were 1,100 at the end. They said that the initial majority would be from 1,500 members. The signatures of 1,100 were collected, but the meeting took place anyway."

During the debates, Ilias Kanelis declared himself in favour of the implementation of formal issues, "not to break up the meeting, but because I believe that the essence lies behind the formalities. When a trade union body violates the formalities, then we have a very serious problem." For his audacity, he was punished by boos, threats and a taken microphone. "Finally, when I got on the podium to present my proposals, I was sent off. However, some proposals have been submitted and the decision of the meeting was to hold elections."

Three proposals resulting from the recapitulation of all reached the polls. "The first one was to carry out a general and prolonged strike, under the umbrella of the Workers' Centre. This proposal was supported by SYRIZA and the Left, which I call "inspired by the Civil War" or "destructive Left." The second proposal was made by the Communist Party, the media company of which is ready to collapse and is already under the regulations of Article 99 of the Bankruptcy Code. As a result, workers there have lost their basic rights such as to demand their unpaid monthly wages and as far as I know, the company owes them unpaid wages for many months. There is a rumour that this has been happening since last summer, but we cannot know for sure, because the Communist Party has its specifics and there is no way to be aware of the details. Their group decided to hold a strike too, but under the leadership of their union organization PAME. A third group has formed of independent journalists, without any ideological definition and our group - Democratic Reform, has joined it. I did not think it would take off, because many of my colleagues did not want to get involved in it. However, it is quite tiring to oppose this obsession for the permanent revolution. Despite my expectations, this proposal was supported by a majority vote. This means that there is a silent majority of media staff, who do not want ruin, but to keep their jobs. They associate it with the general situation in the country and in all cases, they analyze the things in much greater depth than the Left."

So, journalists in Athens have decided to meet any challenge or change in the working media.

Tags: MediaUnion of JournalistsManagement boardVoteGeneral strikeCollective labour agreementSalaries
GRReporter’s content is brought to you for free 7 days a week by a team of highly professional journalists, translators, photographers, operators, software developers, designers. If you like and follow our work, consider whether you could support us financially with an amount at your choice.
You can support us only once as well.
blog comments powered by Disqus