Luís Filipe Simões, journalist from A Bola, was elected president of the board of the Union of Journalists (SJ) in May for the triennium 2021/2023, succeeding Sofia Branco. During the electoral campaign, his purposes were clear: “To denounce and fight the precariousness of the profession, the lack of conditions in the newsrooms, the low salaries. We will fight for the fast-wearing statute to be applied to the profession. We will sign the new collective bargaining agreement and guarantee its effective application. We will also keep vigilance over the application of the teleworking regime, in order to avoid abuses resulting from its application in companies that opt for it”.
Meios & Publicidade (M&P): Have the working conditions of journalists worsened as a result of the pandemic?
Luís Filipe Simões (LFS): SJ made a survey to journalists with some questions about what brought us the pandemic. Teleworking was imposed in more than 70 percent of cases by company determination. This created some difficulty because he sent home most of the newsrooms. Newsrooms, and this is a personal opinion, do not work in telecommuting. We stop discussing and looking at problems in a more collective way. There is no one by the side to make a suggestion or to correct. In the survey responses we had people who complained that they had lost the right to disconnect. They work practically all day, with the misconception that it’s a privilege to be at home. Then there is a substantial fringe that stopped paying transport and food subsidies and did not compensate for the added expenses of electricity, water and everything else.
M&P: Has there been a change in the profile of journalists in Portugal? How have wages evolved?
LFS: There is a study, I have the idea that it is from the University of Minho, which talks about the juvenilization of journalism: younger and younger journalists, earning less and with increasingly precarious contracts. The journalist’s career is slowly changing. In union terms, this can be seen from the contributions of people. If it is true that SJ has managed to increase the number of union members, it is also true that it has lost a lot of revenue. That’s where the differences in pay can be seen. It is true that we went through years of great vigor in journalism, after joining the European Union, but little by little, and with the entry into this century, working conditions worsened, wages fell substantially. This explains the increasingly younger journalists. Gradually, with age, people leave journalism. As much passion as people have for journalism, there are other appeals. They leave the profession and will earn more, for example, in consultancy and communication companies.
M&P: To the best of our knowledge, there is no collective redundancy taking place. What are the complaints that, at this stage, are reaching SJ?
LFS: They are very varied. There are complaints of non-compliance, delays in subsidies, some complaints on RTP from professionals who believe that administrations are not complying with the company agreement, there are issues of career progression and the collective contract, which are not respected. I would even make an appeal. Journalists complain little. A few days ago I was talking to a journalist who said that we had the defect of saying that journalists are not news, but journalism has to be news.
M&P: There is a renegotiation of the collective bargaining agreement. At what point is the process?
LFS: The current contract dates from 2010. Its review started six years ago, was resumed and has been under negotiation for four years without interruption. It is a document that sits at the same table employers, represented by the Portuguese Press Association, and workers, represented by the SJ, who have to reach an agreement on everything that journalists’ working conditions are. Then, for companies, it serves to guide competition so that they are all under the same rules.
M&P: Is there a deadline for this deal to end?
LFS: I’ve been telling my associates it’s coming soon, but I’ve been saying it for a year now. Within today [13 de Dezembro] we had a meeting. There is a clear understanding that it may take longer, but we have to make a good deal.
M&P: What are the main topics under discussion? What can it do?
LFS: It will be a pioneering collective bargaining agreement because it will include the issue of teleworking. There are some requirements for employers, for example, for people with a chronic illness, journalists with more than 30 years of experience, pregnant workers. It will be the first collective agreement that looks at teleworking in this way. Going back to the survey on teleworking conditions, at the beginning of the pandemic I thought that complaints would come from people who wanted to be at home and companies would not allow it. That is not what happened. It was the opposite, of people who thought that journalism is not done at home and that one cannot confuse the home with the workplace. In the survey, 48 percent think asking to telecommute. The results are divided between those who think they should work remotely and those who think they should work in the newsroom. Another point will be to define the career in terms of years of profession and transpose to the document what a journalist’s career is and indicate, at 40 years, what the minimum wages are for each level. That is, to think of the collective bargaining agreement in terms of career and not merely for practical day-to-day issues. The contract is practically agreed between the two parties but there are issues of detail. In collective contracts there is a rule: until everything is agreed, nothing is defined.
M&P: What aspects are bosses most reluctant to negotiate?
LFS: Obviously the salary issue separates us, because we always find it insufficient. The last contract is from 2010 and, in many cases, the journalists did not have salary increases. We are earning much less because salaries have not been corrected over the years. We earn the same as 10 years ago, which represents a salary drop of more than 20 percent.
Read here the complete interview with Luís Filipe Simões, published in the 899 edition of M&P (exclusive access for subscribers)
Source: Meios & Publicidade by www.meiosepublicidade.pt.
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