Public broadcaster journalists opt for token strike

Ljubljana – Members of the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists at RTV Slovenija have opted to stage a token strike on 23 May in protest at a situation that they describe as “unbearable” due to policies pursued by the management and the Programme Council.

Roughly 64% of the 428 union members voted and more than 96% of those who voted were in favour of the strike. For the outcome to be valid, at least half of the members had to cast their ballot.

Journalist Helena Milinković, coordinator for four union chapters at RTV Slovenija, has called for the strike as a show of solidarity with the staff at the news programme and the multimedia centre MMC, “who are being prevented by the management and programme leadership to work up to professional standards”.

This she said “jeopardised their unbiased reporting, and hurt their professional integrity”. They believe the public broadcaster’s credibility and reputation has been undermined by the harmful staffing and programme moves taken by the management and “political takeover” of the Programme Council and the supervisory board.

Their strike demands include editorial and institutional autonomy and resignations by RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough, TV news programme editor-in-chief Jadranka Rebernik, acting editor of the RTV Slovenija news portal Igor Pirkovič and RTV Slovenija Programme Council chairman Peter Gregorčič.

Their other demands include sufficient staffing, allocation of staff to work stations and wage brackets for the work they in fact do and an increase in wages for the staff in the lower third of the wage brackets. They also call for comprehensive social dialogue.

The vote for the strike comes after the Programme Council endorsed changes to the broadcaster’s statute that include a plan to create two separate news programmes, each with its own editor-in-chief and desk. Staff see the plan as an attempt to create separate pro-government and pro-opposition news programmes.

The leadership of RTV Slovenija expressed regret at the move and stressed it was already in talks with social partners to increase pay in the lowest brackets. It said little about the other demands except that “internal tensions and conflicts must be resolved through dialogue”.

The Association of Slovenian Journalists endorsed the strike noting that it had long been warning about violations in appointments and management policy, disregard for professional standards, absence of dialogue, and interference in editorial independence.