Media bosses are using Covid 19 to put the boot in on journalists. Pay cuts and lay-offs are general across the industry, particularly in local papers.
A survey by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) across Britain and Ireland has found that only 14% of journalists report their earnings are unchanged. Many freelance journalists (the largest section in the union) report their work has disappeared.
Some employers have excelled themselves in cynical behaviour.
The Iconic group has made several staff with less than two years service redundant. That is so they don’t have to make redundancy payments. They have refused to use the (Irish) Government’s temporary wage subsidy scheme, instead forcing llaid off staff onto social welfare. Iconic is one of the largest local newspaper groups, with 23 papers on both sides of the Border, including the Limerick Leader, Leinster Leader, Dundalk Democrat and Derry News.
The North West of Ireland Printing and Publishing Company, which publishes six local papers across Tyrone, Donegal and Fermanagh, has cut four days from the annual holiday entitlement as well as cutting pay. One of the company’s directors is Anita Currie, wife of former Fine Gael TD and Presidential candidate Austin Currie.
These cuts are not just about the effect on journalists. They reduce local news voerage. As Marxists, we know the limitations of the press under capitalism. We also know local papers are an important part of communities. As camapaigners, we know how useful sympathetic local journalists are.
Presently, the speed and ferocity of the onslaught has taken journalists by surprise. The task now before the union is to build chapel (workplace) organisation. Otherwise, supposedly ‘temporary’ cuts will become permanent. Worse, media bosses will develop an appetite to further cut pay and condition.