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Trade Union of Croatian Journalists

INTRODUCTION The Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ) was founded in May 1990 with objective to protect basic human, social and professional rights of journalists in accordance with the Croatian Constitution, labor legislation, UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. TUCJ strongly promotes labor rights as core human rights as stated in the UDHR and the ILO conventions 87 and 98. Thanks to national legislation and ILO conventions, trade unions are the only organizations authorized to negotiate collective agreements and to organize industrial actions, including strike. The fact that NGOs (journalists associations included!) have no authority to represent workforce in such a manner was the main reason why Croatian journalists organized TUCJ, although their professional organization, Croatian Journalists' Association, CJA, has been active since 1910. The idea to merge these two organizations gradually gets support among journalists, mostly members of both organizations. One organization - with trade union role - would be more efficient in protecting both labor and professional rights of journalists. There are about 4000 journalists in Croatia (population of the country is about 4,3 million). Most journalists are CJA members, and almost 70 percent are TUCJ members. Future goal is to increase membership and to sign national collective agreement. COLLECTIVE AGREEMENTS TUCJ achieved major success in 1996 by signing collective agreements in six major media companies in Croatia, state and privately owned. In total, TUCJ signed 11 collective agreements in media companies. Also, TUCJ was the first (and so far the only) trade union in a transitional country that signed collective agreement in media company then 50% owned by German WAZ, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (in EPH, daily paper Jutarnji list). These collective agreements protected core labor and some professional rights of journalists and media workers, including also: additional payment (or free days in exchange) for work on holidays, Saturdays and Sundays; elements that define journalists' working hours (travel and gathering facts, time spent at covering various sessions and events, writing texts, checking facts); right of journalists to refuse an assignment if against their beliefs or against the Code of Conduct, etc. Since 2003 TUCJ has been trying to negotiate national collective agreement (NCA) for journalists and media workers of Croatia, aimed at protecting basic rights also for those working in small local media. TUCJ proposed in NCA obligatory university degree for young journalists entering the profession in order to improve educational level of journalism. Additional reason is the fact that it is more difficult to organize and protect under-educated journalists because they are more easily intimidated and manipulated by the employers. ORGANIZATION The TUCJ basic organizational form is TUCJ shop/chapel in the media company, headed by shop steward. Till present, in total, TUCJ has organized TU chapels in 77 media companies, with some individual members. Unfortunately, long economic crisis started to reverse the process. The TUCJ supreme body is the TUCJ Assembly (Congress) that meets annually. The executive body is the Executive Committee. TUCJ president is elected by the Assembly, and serves his/her duty as a volunteer. Incumbent TUCJ President Anton Filic, journalist at the daily paper Vecernji list from Zagreb, was elected to his second 4-year term at the TUCJ Congress in May 23, 2015. Jasmina Popovic (TUCJ president 2000-2006), journalist at the public broadcaster Croatian radio television from Zagreb is the IFJ Vice president and a member of the International Federation of Journalists Executive Committee, IFJ EC. The TUCJ's main source of income is the membership fee deducted automatically from monthly net salary, percentage depending on category or TUCJ chapel decision. Individual and unemployed members pay symbolic fee individually. Decrease in staff journalists, low salaries, arrears or non-payment of salaries and remuneration for freelance journalists, cause problems in fee collecting. But, due to professional solidarity of TUCJ members and common interest to protect their labor, professional and human rights, the TUCJ has managed to achieve considerable success nationally and internationally, which by far surpasses its size and financial strength. BASIC PRINCIPLES TUCJ organizes journalists from all the media, "independent" and "dependent" alike, freelancers included. Common interest - good conditions at work, paid salaries and guaranteed professional rights - is the tying foundation. IFJ's motto: There can be no freedom of the media if journalists live in conditions of poverty, corruption or fear, is our motto. These bad conditions, unfortunately, are still common in CEE and SEE countries. Multinational media corporations spreading their ownership to CEE and SEE countries unfortunately have double standards - while respecting labor legislation in their countries, they tend to breach it in ours. This makes international and regional cooperation between journalists more important. TUCJ cooperates very well with journalists from all these countries. With the help of IFJ/EFJ we organized a series of successful seminars in Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro to help journalists from the region organize efficient trade unions. TUCJ was the IFJ's model for building trade unions of journalists in the region. TUCJ has engaged a group of lawyers who defend journalists in hundreds of labor related disputes and lawsuits against employers. By defending journalists' basic labor, social and professional rights, TUCJ also fights against hidden censorship "economic " (unpaid work) and "political" (not publishing accepted articles), both common at the beginning of transition period. In hundreds of filed court-cases TUCJ made employers pay journalists and other media workers for their work and cancel unlawful lay-offs. In order to protect journalists' rights, TUCJ called official state inspectors to examine all the media companies in Croatia in 2001. Results were shocking - almost 50% of journalists and other media workers had no legal employment contracts. TUCJ insists on legal employment or freelance contracts, and continues cooperation with inspectors. Considerable results have been achieved, but still many problems remain to be solved. Recently, one of the main problems is decrease of staff work and increase of forced freelance and precarious collaboration in the media under the excuse of reducing costs. Economic crisis is the main excuse for this trend also for reduced implementation or renunciation of collective agreements. Staff employees are being laid-off, and freelance and informal collaborators engaged instead – often they are the same persons! New category of so called RPO collaborators (registered tax payers/ RTP) – “independent entrepreneurs” who work daily, full-time in the media as if they were staff employees, but without adequate rights, is a new challenge for TUCJ. By addressing respective state bodies TUCJ tries to find the way to force legislators to distinguish real freelance work from the false one, widely used by publishers to hide violation of the Labor Law. Thanks to the TUCJ persistency and efforts, some results have been achieved, but still much work remains to be done. TUCJ Secretariat (Written by Marinka Boljkovac-Borkovic) Updated in September 2015