Journalists in Denmark know why Unions are important

On September 30, at 6 pm, a Journalist’s Work and Copyright Discussion will be held at the Press Center. Today, journalists in Croatia work in precarious conditions.

Labor-legal insecurity and impaired professional standards in the media threaten the dignity of the profession, but also the human and labor dignity of journalists. It is therefore essential to open up the topic of collective bargaining in journalism and to empower individuals and journalistic organizations for collective bargaining.

What we can learn from Denmark and what is the situation in Europe ahead of his arrival in Zagreb, we asked Mogens Blicher Bjerregard, president of the European Federation of Journalists and former longtime President of the Danish Journalists Union.

How many journalists in Denmark are involved in the Journalists’ Union?

Between 92 and 100 percent of journalists are members of the Union. The Union has 18.000 members

How many are protected by a collective agreement?

It is normal for all media to have collective agreements, however only few of them (Public Service Media, some magazines and a few production companies) have agreement with freelancers. Though maybe between 30 and 50 percent only are covered through contracts.

How are journalism students in Denmark also protected by a collective agreement?

Close to 100% of the students are organized (there is 3000 of them) – and yes they are covered by a collective agreement during their traineeship which is between 12 and 18 months of the 3-4 years education. Regardless on which media, they will be paid the same.

Why is protecting journalist’s working rights important for freedom of journalism?

Because without decent working conditions journalists would be in a vulnerable situation and would not always be able to spend the needed time to make suficient research, investigative journalism etc. Also they might find other ways to make their money and sometimes leave the journalism as the second choise.

Why are Unions in general important?

It is generally important that journalists as all other workers get organised as only united it is possible for journalists to make real changes both regarding working conditions and interest of their profession. As better organised it is more difficult for employers to individualize employee. Also it is a protection of the weakest that we are good organised.

What is the situation at European level?

It is very different from country to country both because of different culture and very various ways to organise. There is not such thing as one size fits all. In Scandinavia, British islands, Benelux, German speaking countries and Italy there are traditions for being well organized – also despite German speaking countries we have one organisation per country what also makes us stronger.

Both the labour rights and the issues on the professions are covered by the same union or organisation. The advantage is that publishers and journalists can work together on topics regarding media law, press freedom, education etc. which in fact makes it easier when you are bargaining collective agreements.

Baltics, Central Eastern Europe, Balkans and most of southern Europe do not have the same tradition, and in many countries workers are still suffering from the image of unions during the Soviet time. It is also very clear that salaries and other working conditions are best in countries with the highest degree of organising. So in fact the key is organising.

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