RTV Slovenija staff step up strike due to worsening working conditions

Ljubljana – A large number of journalists and other employees at public broadcaster RTV Slovenija stepped up strike activities on Monday due to what they see as deteriorating working conditions and escalating bullying. The broadcaster’s content was reduced, but not to the extent that the staff planned.

There were supposed to be no news programmes or shows dedicated to sports or culture today, and no live broadcasts. The broadcaster’s MMC portal was not supposed to release any new content either.

MMC posted a strike announcement on its website in the morning, however the post was removed several times throughout the day.

RTV employees said that acting MMC editor Igor Pirkovič and the RTV management were responsible for this, whereas Uroš Urbanija, the director of the broadcaster’s television arm TV Slovenija, noted it was illegal to publish anything without the editor’s approval.

Today’s duty editor on the portal was stripped of the authorisation to edit the website as a result of this back and forth.

“We consider the sudden withdrawal of editing rights to be a violation of the law, as we cannot even include news relevant to the lives of people and communities on the portal,” said MMC journalist Larisa Daugul.

Surprisingly, the flagship 7pm news show was aired, produced by staff who did not join the strike, including Pirkovič, resulting in what Helena Milinković, the chief trade unionist at RTV Slovenija, named “the most amateurish news show RTV Slovenija has ever aired”.

The late-night current affairs show Odmevi will also be aired at 10pm as scheduled.

This is but another example of the clash between the employees on strike, and several editors and the management that has been going on for months now.

Milinković told a press conference that the management had attempted to initiate disciplinary action against two employees for publicly expressing their views online. “But they retreated because there is no basis for such proceedings.”

After twelve rounds of negotiations there has been no progress, as the management has been evading responsibility, Milinković noted, adding that, same as in June, it tried to prevent strike activities today.

She again urged the National Assembly, government and other relevant authorities to take action to protect the public service media.

Commenting on the day-long strike, Prime Minister Robert Golob expressed his concerns about the situation. He would like to see those responsible to finally realise that by demolishing RTV Slovenija “they are demolishing democracy in the country”.

He alleged political staffing and interference with journalist and editorial freedom. He also urged RTV director general Andrej Grah Whatmough to ensure editorial independence in a reply to the latter’s open letter calling for a meeting in the face of the energy crisis.

Noting a decline in TV Slovenija viewership and MMC website traffic, Golob reiterated that his government’s reform of the RTV Slovenija act, which is currently subject to referendum proceedings, would restore the autonomy of the broadcaster.

In the evening, a rally was held in front of the National Assembly in support of the employees, who demand journalistic, editorial and institutional autonomy, an agreement on staffing policy, negotiations on increasing the lowest wages at the broadcaster, and social dialogue.

There were hundreds of protesters in the square expressing support for the staff and calling for the resignation of the management.