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The biggest problem that journalists face is that they seem to be forgetting that they are workers too

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The biggest problem that journalists face is that they seem to be forgetting that they are, above other things, workers too and that editing offices they go to on daily basis, actually represent their work place. They need to realize that writing, reporting and field work are indeed hard and exhausting work they must encounter, it’s not just journalists’ enthusiasm, in fact it is job that one could only do because he/she loves and truly enjoys doing it, rather than doing it in order to make a living out of it. All of this could be considered as passion and love to journalism trade if only journalists could work under regular conditions, actually if employers could fulfill their duties and respect journalists’ rights. It seems that journalists’ knowledge is very limited in terms of their labor rights although their professional trade should comprehend knowledge about many fields and this can be marked as yet another great issue and problem most media staff are faced with.

The reality proves that most of our colleagues have no adequate contracts including regular monthly wages / salaries pursuant to their educational level and most of them work with no legal document records. They are often engaged on a short term basis (contracts). Some of them are engaged without contracts hoping that one day they will get a regular job – although they have no clue how to get that job either.

There are very few journalists that, for instance, have all duties and levies paid for 10 years of their service with no debt lefts and there are number of those getting entire wage / salary amounts paid directly to their bank accounts, instead of getting cash in an envelope. Anything is possible these days including fictional travel reports being filled in, overtime not being recorded, cash grants unpaid, including company daily meals also unpaid etc. Yes, this payment is an obligation for all workers but obviously not for journalists. Many journalists have been working over a decade without a single day being recorded in their employment labor record book and official inspectors do not recognize their names and faces they seen on TV and fail to identify and outline this occurrence as illegal work. No one seems to have audacity to report their employers to official and authorized inspections for having illegal workers (journalists), including contract breakings by any employer.

We realize these problems only when we get in financial troubles, including health problems as well. When we face health problems we realize that we cannot go to see our doctor because our employers had not been paying for health insurance for years. When female journalists become mothers and cannot have maternity leave or even get sacked for being pregnant and giving birth to their baby. We particularly seem to wake when we need to solve our problems with housing and we have no chance to take a bank loan in our thirties since we had not been engaged legally.

Unfortunately, this picture represents almost every editing office in BiH and journalists mostly seem to ignore it, although they are asked to identify these problems, describe them thus getting full attention from their colleagues and public. These problems are never discussed openly; they are never solved as if they do not relate to workers or people as a matter of fact. Although we manage to twist brown coins in our pockets we seem to be proud with our so called star statuses and even more with our ignorance of legal issues and a necessity to get educated and join our forces through clubs, associations and most importantly – unions. Actually, many people find union ridiculous and even consider it a system puppet. The rumor has it that unions are hopeless and that unions protect education and public sector em-

ployees, metal industry, textile industry and health department employee. Journalists find unions unnecessary since many of them are convinced that apparent public celebrity statutes are sufficient enough to provide them with decent living. And while education sector employees appear happy since they shall receive travel money as their new year’s presents out of nowhere (and they shall receive this legally anyway), journalists seem to be dreaming about their regular wages / salaries in envelopes, tax – free and with no records whatsoever. Has any media employee ever gotten any bonuses, holiday reimbursements, daily hot meal money or travel money? Perhaps you should ask journalists about this; they won’t even know that all these indemnities are not reserved for public sector staff only.

And this exactly what employers are looking for. They pay “peanuts’ to journalists and suffocate them with lots of work; they keep telling them that unions are nothing but a bunch of senseless people reflecting an overall situation in the country. They tell them about economic crisis and God knows what; making thus most of their profits through their employers that humbly fulfill everything they have been asked to do. If journalists could only consider themselves as workers perhaps they would know that changes can be made and would realize that they should not compete with each other. Media houses they are engaged with are completions, but journalists are not and shall not be; at least not when it comes to defending labor rights and fight for decent life and revival of professional journalism trade dignity.

Journalists, including education sector staff, metal industry workers and health department staff should be aware that they do represent a significant force when they stand together in front of their employers. Without this force there can be no stable journalism, web sites, TV, radio etc, since employers are easy to discover, but also easy to replace and this is the key in order to solve this problem. We must change our consciousness so our trade could have its dignity restored; to fight and negotiate with our employers. We shall restore dignity to our trade and gain public respect only when we show respect for ourselves and this is not an easy task to do. However with right approach, courage and solid knowledge of labor rights, union could attain more than any individual with celebrity status that twist brow coins in his pockets.

No employer shall be happy with union being established in his company and he / she shouldn’t be. He / she may be upset for a while and threats and black- mailing may follow, including notice and wages reducing, but he / she would eventually have to adapt and accept employees as his / her business partners. Why? This would happen when one establish a union, employer cannot change salary amount without previous negotiations and because lawyers shall support employees, press charges against employers and should it be necessary, negotiate on employee’s behalf. Employees shall quickly find themselves in a negotiating position with their employer and demand end request; change weights on a scale and request conditions to their own benefit. Employees shall be entitled to hold strikes, since only union would be authorized to organize and announce strikes. Only when employers realize that we can learn to protect themselves and that the company does indeed depend on our works; employees shall realize that the power is in their hands. Employers and entrepreneurs cunningly misuse lack of knowledge and fear among employees. What is to be frightened of when employers depend of employees work and when they owe employees not the other way around?

Bulletin “E-journalist“/Fairpress

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