Ljubljana – RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough has urged the public broadcaster’s in-house trade unions to cancel the strike planned for Monday and sign the strike agreement he has offered them in a bid to prevent “irreparable damage to news programmes”. But the unions have responded by saying the strike will go ahead as planned.
The broadcaster said in a press release on Sunday the deadline to sign the strike agreement or provide remarks to it is Monday 10am: this is four hours before the strike.
Grah Whatmough says the strike will cause enormous damage to programmes and further undermine the outlet’s reputation, which will eventually harm the staff, who want to do their job in a quality working environment.
Any interruption of work weakens the prospects of financial stability, prevents a smooth working process and can irreparably damage the staff and management.
The release says the offered strike agreement addresses all the strike demands, from editorial autonomy and staffing to social dialogue and higher pay for lowest earners, while the staff who were on strike on 23 May will also get paid as if they had worked.
To depoliticise the outlet’s management, ensure its stable financing and allow for editorial and institutional autonomy, Grah Whatmough proposes a task force to draft changes to the RTV Slovenija law by September.
To ensure editorial and professional autonomy and improve the working conditions, he proposes overhauling professional standards and other in-house rules by the end of 2022.
The director general moreover proposes hiring 10 new journalists and editors to cope with the shortage of staff after a number of journalists have left.
He also proposes immediate talks with the Journalist Trade Union to raise the lowest wages, while talks are already under way with the other two trade unions.
To put in place regular social dialogue on all issues concerning RTV Slovenija staff, he says a special agreement on social dialogue should be signed within one month.
He also asks the Journalist Trade Union to urge the state as the founder of RTV Slovenija to align the licence fee with inflation, which would bring long-term financial stability.
Responding to the appeal, the in-house trade unions have said the strike will proceed as planned, including the 7pm rally in front of the National Assembly.
The release on Sunday labels the offered strike agreement and the appeal to cancel the strike are an ultimatum and yet another attempt at preventing the strike.
Signed by Helena Milinković, head of the in-house journalist trade unions, and Ksenija Horvat, one of the negotiators, the statement accuses the director general of manipulation and misleading the public.
It notes that following three meetings after the talks started on 3 June, the two sides were to meet a fourth time on 21 June, but Grah Whatmough publicly cancelled the meeting without notifying the negotiating trade unions.
Some strike demands were met in the talks, but not the key ones that would eliminate the reasons for the strike, they say.
For instance, the director ignored the demand to discuss TV Slovenija editor-in-chief Jadranka Rebernik’s responsibility for failing to carry out her duties and causing damage to the news programmes.
Milinković and Horvat also note that the 23 May strike has never been formally cancelled since the situation has not improved to this point.
They see Grah Whatmough’s communication with them solely through press releases as “an attempt at preventing and obstructing the strike of journalists”.