Industrial relations in the print media sector

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Date of Publication: 09 August 2006

Céline Lafoucriere

In many European countries, the print media sector has been at the forefront of the organised labour movement, creating trade unions and being involved in industrial relations practices. As with any industry, print media has undergone changes over time and its current transformation may also be altering its industrial relations practices. The introduction of increasingly advanced technologies, the relative restructuring and reorganisation of production processes, and the need to create conditions of economic stability are the key issues for companies in the print media sector. The reduction of the numbers of workers in this sector has run parallel to other major trends such as outsourcing, off-shoring and the growth of atypical work. This comparative study looks at recent trends in the print media sector in Europe in the last few years and shows the impact of these trends on industrial relations. It focuses on changes in employment levels and practices, the organisation and views of employers and trade union, and the level of social dialogue and industrial conflict. The study covers 18 EU Member States.


In many European countries, the print media sector has been at the forefront of the organised labour movement, creating trade unions as well as the social and union press, and was thus involved in several of the original social dialogue practices. As with any industry, print media has undergone changes over time and its current transformations may also be altering its industrial relations practices. The reduction of the numbers of workers in this sector has run parallel to other major trends such as outsourcing, off-shoring and the growth of atypical work. Major companies have outsourced a large part of the work process and freelance projects continue to remain robust in Europe. However, these employees usually face a level of social protection that is lower than that of other workers. In addition, this situation may hinder the social dialogue for all existing parties in the sector due to a reduced representation of employees.

The wider media sector encompasses a wide range of activities involving the creation, modification, transfer, and distribution of content for the purpose of mass consumption. Specifically, this sector is highly regarded for generating the necessary links between media and culture and/or media and information.

A wide range of industries can be considered as belonging to the media sector, most notably: television, radio broadcasting, film, recorded music, and the printed press. More recently, the internet has provided a new outlet through which media content can be distributed.

Of particular interest is the sub-sector of print media, the focus of this study. Print media comprises two fields, publishing and printing, as specified in the classification of economic activities in the European Communities (NACE):

NACE code Description
22.12 Publishing of newspapers
22.13 Publishing of journals and periodicals
22.21 Printing of newspapers
22.22 Printing of periodicals

Workers belonging to the print media sector are categorised in two main groups: printers (who have been traditionally linked to this sector and include all typographical workers such as typesetters and compositors) and journalists.

Overall, the evolution of the print media sector has been conditioned by several factors: changes in regulation on competition, concentration of companies, flexible labour regulations, and alterations in the dynamics of work due to significant technological developments (digital technologies, telematics, information science, etc.).

This comparative study is based on national reports from the following 18 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In particular, the study provides:

  • a general assessment of recent trends and the prevalent features of the print media sector over the last few years in the European countries studied;
  • an analysis of the impact of these trends on industrial relations;
  • details of the positions and influence of the social partners regarding the sector and its trends.


The print media sector in the EU is a relatively heterogeneous sector, consisting of all types of periodical newspapers, magazines (including TV guides), and specialist journals. Small companies dominate the print media sector in numerical terms; however, large groups hold the main newspapers and magazines in most EU countries. For example:

France- Lagardere Medias, Hachette Filipacchi Medias, Emap France, Bayard Press and Prisma Press.

Germany- Verlag AG, M. Du Mont Schauberg, Medien Union GmbH, Verlagsgesellschaft Madsack and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH (publishing companies). Heinrich Bauer, Axel Springer AG, Hubert Burda Media and Gruner Jahr (.magazine companies).

Hungary- Axel Springer and Ringier.

Ireland- Independent Newspapers and the Irish Times (printing companies).

Italy- RCS Media Gruppo (Part of the Agnelli Group) and Editoriale l’Espresso (part of the De Benedetti Group).

Norway- Schibsted, A-pressen and Orkla.

Poland- Orkla Media, Polskapresse, Agora and Axel Springer.

Slovakia- Ringier Slovakia, Petit Press, Company 7 Plus, ECOPRESS and Perex (publishing companies). Neografia, Komarnansle, Vychodoslovenske, Versus, Bratislavske tlaciarne and Slovenska Grafia (printing companies).

United Kingdom- De La Rue, Chesapeake UK Holdings, the Polestar Group, St Ives.

Table 1: Number of companies in the print media sector in EU countries, and total number of employees (TNE) by NACE codes, 2002-2004
The number of companies and employees in EU countries in print media listed according to industry sectors as defined by NACE codes
Country NACE 22.12 TNE NACE 22.13 TNE NACE 22.21 TNE NACE 22.22 TNE
Austria 127 4,315 255 2,436 23 808 804 12,293
Belgium 191 3,768 204 2,651 38 2,205 1,135 15,054
Denmark 42 13,220 114 14,507 15 13,187 615 N/A
Finland 310 N/A 291 N/A 19 N/A 927 N/A
Italy 446 13,849 1,909 12,109 51 3,007 N/A N/A
Norway 220 14,919 168 2,510 40 1,136 428 18,565
Slovenia 52 1,554 94 408 1 N/A N/A N/A
Spain 515 N/A 554 N/A 63 N/A 11,295 N/A
Sweden* 507 N/A 864 N/A 37 N/A 102 N/A
UK** 568 57,000 1978 57,000 85 2,000 13,347 149,000

Source: National contributions

* Detailed statistics not available. According to the Statistika Centralbyran a total of 43,388 workers were employed in the whole print media sector in 2004.

** Total number of employees on average per year.

A review of the national reports reveals a shift towards globalisation in the print media sector, characteristic of many other industries. There has been a rationalisation, consolidation, and digitalisation effort over the past two decades, leading to a restructuring of the sector from labour-intensive work (with a large pool of employees), to technologically advanced work. In turn, this transformation has reduced the number of employees (minimising the amount of workers in the job pool) and has also created a large number of precarious contracts in part time work, distance working, and teleworking.

Besides technological developments and advancing globalisation, the print media sector has encountered difficult times due to economic factors. In recent years, the advertising market for traditional newspapers has decreased with the growth of free newspapers. Free newspapers, financed by local advertisers and owned by a limited number of huge media companies, have attracted many advertisers and a new generation of readers not willing to pay high subscription fees for traditional newspapers. Furthermore, in order to retain revenue, traditional newspapers have had to increase their subscription fees to compensate for lower advertising activity and subscriptions. In Sweden, for instance, the largest morning newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, made 80% of its income in 1990 from advertising and 20% from subscriptions. In 2003 the advertising income had fallen to 63% and subscription income had risen to 37%. In the last forty years, Swedish subscription prices have increased three fold. In the meantime, free newspapers, such as Metro, have had a favourable development throughout European countries.

Further economic problems exist in the area of takeovers, a growing phenomenon in Europe over the past few years. In Denmark, the Graphic Employer’s Association shows that the national trend has been to consolidate larger companies through takeovers of smaller ones. In Germany, the most prominent event in the print media sector in recent times has been the takeover in October 2005 of the Berliner Verlag- a publishing house owned by Holtzbrinck that publishes among other titles two Berlin dailies - by a consortium of two private equity funds: the American Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS) and the British Mecom Group. The takeover took place despite protests by the staff of the Berliner Verlag, who feared that this takeover would eventually lead to massive cuts in employment. What is significant is that this was the first time that a German newspaper had been sold to foreign investors. In Austria, growing competitive pressure has also led to increased market concentration through takeovers. In December 2005 the Federal Competition Control Authority (Bundeswettbewerbsbehörde) approved the takeover of a small printing enterprise by the Leykam Let’s Print Holding Company. Following this takeover, Leykam has become Austria’s largest printing company, with about 600 employees. One of the most important takeovers in Sweden took place in 2005, when ten rural morning newspapers belonging to the Center Party Press were taken over by the Götenborgs-Posten in Gothenburg. Generally speaking, this seems to be an ongoing process in the EU.

With more restructuring and takeovers, the number of jobs in the print media sector has declined. In the Netherlands, restructuring has been taking place since 2003. Four major restructurings involving newspapers, journals, and publishing companies have led to the decline in the print run of newspapers, technical developments, advertising incomes and competition in general. According to the national correspondent, employment of printers has fallen by 25% in the last ten years in the Netherlands alone. Similarly, in Sweden the number of journalist posts has fallen in the last decade. The two largest morning papers in Stockholm, for instance, have cut down their editorial staff by 50% in the last few years. In Ireland two of the largest companies in the print media sector, Independent Newspapers and the Irish Times, have also engaged in major restructuring exercises in recent years, resulting in job cuts. A controversial major restructuring occurred at Independent Newspapers in 2004. According to the national correspondent, the Group made a decision to offload 205 staff through a combination of redundancy and outsourcing. In addition to this, a plan drawn up in late 2001 by management of the Irish daily newspaper, the Irish Times, called for one-third of its workforce to be cut. In 2002, the newspaper cut its 710-strong workforce by 250, following intensive negotiations with its trade unions.

Restructuring has sometimes been to the benefit of employees. With regard to the hostile takeovers of Irish newspapers resulting in job cuts, proposals on corporate governance at the Irish Times were accepted by 491 to 47 in an aggregate ballot of all unions in the Group: SIPTU print, SIPTU clerical, the National Union of Journalists and craft unions. These plans include the appointment, in consultation with the unions, of a prominent person reflective of the Irish trade union interest to a new, leaner board of the company. Though falling short of a worker director, in that the employees do not vote the individual directly onto the board, this is the first time in Ireland that a private sector company has agreed to a union nominee board member.

Employment structure and rights

Tables 2 and 3 give breakdowns of the number of workers, by sub-sectors and gender, in the print media sector for several of the countries in the study.

Table 2: Total number of employees in the print media sector, in 2000-2002 and 2003-2004, in 5 countries of the EU and Norway
The number of employees in Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Slovenia and the UK in print media listed according to industry sectors as defined by NACE codes from 2000 to 2004
Country NACE 22.12 NACE 22.13 NACE 22.21 NACE 22.22
  2000-2002 2003-2004 2000-2002 2003-2004 2000-2002 2003-2004 2000-2002 2003-2004
Denmark 17,960 13,220 13,600 14,507 16,654 13,187 N/A N/A
France 33,165 33,568 30,245 28,336 2,237 2,255 82,794 70,005
Germany 110,454 98,350 48,269 48,577 35,940 30,858 191,535 165,860
Norway 18,091 14,919 2,393 2,510 1,213 1,136 N/A N/A
Slovenia 1,538 1,467 321 402 85 3 N/A N/A
UK* 46,000 57,000 67,000 57,000 2,000 2,000 162,000 149,000

Source: National contributions.

* Yearly average

Table 3: Number of workers by NACE codes - Breakdown by gender, 2004
Number of men and women in the print media listed according to NACE codes
Country 22.12 22.13 22.21 22.22
  Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
Austria 2,477 1,838 1,064 1,372 720 88 8,359 3,934
Belgium 2,193 1,575 1,098 1,553 1,773 432 10,633 4,421
Denmark 8,344 4,876 7,904 6,603 8,856 4,331 N/A N/A
France 19,302 14,266 12,184 16,151 1,725 530 47,603 22,401
Germany 26,464 26,018 15,103 20,411 12,126 6,713 89,410 43,529
Greece 23,743 16,000 9,053 8,071 14,529 7,826 161 103
Italy 9,787 4,062 5,639 6,470 2,668 339 N/A N/A
Slovenia 713 841 189 219 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total 93,023 69,476 52,234 60,850 42,397 20,259 156,166 74,388
Total M&W 162,499 113,084 62,656 230,554        
% of Women 43% 54% 32% 33%        

Source: National contributions

Additional notes:

- Only 17% of the print media sector in the Netherlands is female and can be found in administrative and designing jobs.

- Statistics Norway registers 39% women workers.

- In Slovakia, the official overall figures show 51% women workers.

In the six European countries represented in Table 2, the number of employees remained generally stable between 2000 and 2004 in the publishing sector whilst the printing sector seemed to suffer a sharp fall during this period. This reflects a shift from technical work to service work that has been observed in the last few decades in most sectors. In Belgium, employment in the publishing sector also rose by 23% between 1998 and 2002, whilst employment in the printing sector declined by almost 10%. Further to this, Spain and Finland highlight that that a greater number of employees are concentrated in micro- and small companies. In Spain it is reported that 50% of workers are concentrated in companies hiring fewer than 5 employees.

For Ireland, employment figures are only available for the print industry. An analysis of the occupation profile of the printing sector in Ireland clearly shows a trend away from the traditional craft roles towards roles relating to information technology (IT) and customer service. The number of print craft workers fell from 7,300 in 1998 to 5,700 in 2003, representing 33% and 23% of total employment in the sector respectively. In the same period, the number of service employees (IT, management and sales) increased by 37%. In 2003 it accounted for 24% of all jobs, compared to 19% five years earlier. In 2003, the distribution of employment by function in the print industry was as follows: print craft workers (23%), non-craft skilled (18%), operations (12%), unskilled (8%), finance and administration (10%), technology (4%), management (12%), sales (8%) and others (5%). Atypically, nearly 35% of workers in the Irish print industry are female.

In the Netherlands the national correspondent reports that about 4,000 journalists of daily newspapers were employed in the sector in 2005, which represented a loss of 10% compared to 2002, and employment is still declining. About 60% of employees are female, and the majority work part time. There is no significant occupational gender segregation in the Netherlands. In line with existing legislation, collective agreements have been concluded allowing all jobs to be worked part time. In 2005, around 40,000 people were reported to be working in the newspaper printing industry. A much smaller amount of persons was working in the book or periodical print industry. Although the same company may be involved in both production processes, the two groups of employees have their own separate collective agreements.

In Denmark the number of employees also increased slightly during the same period in publishing of journals and periodicals (from 13,600 to 14,507). In this branch of the print media, the equality between genders in terms of equal representation is almost complete, which could be explained by the equal number of ‘for women only’ magazines and ‘for men only’ magazines publlished. Contrary to this, the representation of women in 2004 in the newspaper publishing branch was only 36.9% of the total number of employees. In this case, however, the issue does not lie so much with the level of employment but rather with the salary level. In general, women’s wages were 6% below that of men in 2004.

In statistical terms, however, Table 3 shows a rather different picture. According to the national data available, gender participation in the publishing sector and the printing sector appears quite different. In newspaper publishing, 43% of workers were women in 2004, compared with 54% in the publishing of journals and periodicals and only 32% and 33% in the printing of newspapers and the printing of other products respectively. This leads us to conclude that there are still large signs of occupational gender segregation in the printing sector; however, women seem to be much better represented in the publishing sector.

Table 4: Employment types in the print media sector for 2003-2004 (%)
Types of employment in the print media sector in selected EU countries given in percentages for 2003-2004
Country Permanent* Fixed-term* Part-time* Freelance*
Finland 89.9 10,1 13.1 N/A
France 87 6.1 14.8 6.9
Greece 30.8 69.2 20.7 N/A
Italy 52 N/A 10 22
Netherlands 85 15 60 N/A
Slovenia 80 N/A N/A 12
Sweden 85 15 N/A N/A

Source: national contributions.

* Contract terms do not exclude working time arrangements.

Table 4 provides statistical data for employment types. It is highly interesting to see that, in most of the seven countries, permanent contracts remain the preferred option. Fixed-term and part-time contracts seem to remain marginal, except in a few cases where they seem to have become the preferred option. Although sex-segregated data is not provided, most contributors agree — relying on different recent national surveys amongst the print media sector workers — that most part-time as well as precarious freelance contracts are held by women. The data collected for interpretation of freelance work are, however, too scant to be analysed.

Of further interest are the variations in occupational scope existing in print media, as detailed in national collective bargaining agreements.

Table 5: Type of occupations in the print media sector, according to national collective bargaining agreements
An overview of the different types of professions in the print media sector in Europe, listing the most important ones mentioned in collective bargaining.
Country Occupations
Finland • Journalists (main activity) • Photographers • Printing machine operators • Printing technicians • Sales and marketing managers • Graphic designers
Ireland* • Print craft workers • Non-craft skilled • Operations • Unskilled • Finance and administration • Technology • Management • Sales
Slovakia** • Typographer • Computer-to-plate operators • Computer-to-gravure operators • Machine adjuster-technicians • Graphic designers
Slovenia • Journalists (main activity) • Photo reporters • Specialised reporters • Editors • Commentators • Heads of editorial board • Preparation printers • Printers • Completion printers
Spain • Editors in chief • Heads of technical and production section • Editors • Linguists • Digital artists • Graphic designers • Journalists • Archive staff • Graphic editors • Heads of information and production services • Heads of transmission • Chief clerks • Advertising coordinators • Advertising officers • Sales inspectors • Heads of management services • Heads of section • Heads of team • Systems managers • Analysts • Programmers • Machine operators • Mechanics • Electricians • Application/system technicians • Photomechanical/scanner operators • Phototypesetters • Correctors • Computer operators • Audiovisual technicians • Keyboard operators • Editors • Warehouse supervisors • Managing directors • Print operators • Assistant managing directors • Print assistants • Warehouse workers
Sweden • Journalists (Main activity) • Photographers • Illustrators • Proofreaders • Layout editors • Local editors • Heads of editorial boards • Telephone agents • Archive staff • Bookbinders • Lithographers • Typographers

Source: national contributions

* Employment figures for the print media sector in Ireland are only available for the print industry

** Figures only available for the print industry

In most of the sixteen European countries studied in this comparative analysis, basic rights apply to the print media sector. However, there are several national differences highlighted:

• In the Belgian printing sector, working time is set at 37 hours a week — less than the officially established working week of 38 hours. For the newspaper printing sector, the working week is set at 35 hours. For journalists, the working week is also shorter because a non-compulsory agreement sets it at 36 hours.

• In several countries, although there are no differences in labour rights, journalists and printers tend to benefit from favourable provisions. In Austria, for instance, the Journalists Act (Journalistengesetz) provides more favourable provisions on the dismissal compensation (i.e. pay in lieu of notice, Kündigungsentschädigung) of journalists in the case of a restructuring process. Furthermore, according to this act, in cases of a change in the political orientation of a newspaper, the employee is entitled to unilaterally terminate employment under relatively favourable conditions.

• In Finland, a sectoral code provides journalists with longer holiday periods than other national employees. Following the first year of employment, a journalist’s annual holiday is four weeks and the winter holiday is an additional week. After two years, the annual holiday is five weeks and the winter holiday is an additional week. After ten years of employment, the worker is entitled to an additional week of holiday. Those employed in the press industry can also receive additional holiday time for a certain number of evenings and night shifts worked. Printers, salaried employees in the media sector and newspaper deliverers also have better annual holidays than the statutory level: the annual holiday is five weeks (30 days) and the winter holiday is one week (5 days). For shift workers the winter holiday is two weeks (10 days). In addition, a female employee receives her full salary for a total of three months during her maternity leave in the printing sector.

• In the Netherlands a significant difference with other sectors is that journalists and printers work irregular hours. Journalists are therefore generally rewarded with an inconvenience bonus. Printers who work in different shifts and at night calculate their working time by using a ‘24-hour matrix’ which results in an extra allowance.

• In Hungary, there is a major gap in employment regulation coverage. Although the print media sector regulation is covered by the National Labour Code, applicable to most employees, many journalists remain outside of the code’s boundaries. This can be explained by the fact that the labour code does not cover freelance journalists, although most tend to work full time for a single employer. A considerable number of workers are therefore left outside of national employment regulation and are simply covered by civil law contracts.

• In Germany there are no special labour laws applying only to journalists or printers. However, newspapers and political magazines are often considered to be so-called ‘tendentious’ establishments (Tendenzbetrieb), such as churches or political parties. This means that in the case of dismissal, special regulations on co-determination rights and consultation rights apply for these establishments. In the case of individual staff measures, such as the engagement or dismissal of a newspaper editor, the presumption in law is that the interests of the establishment take precedence.

• Italy is probably the only EU country in which the print media sector differs from the majority of other sectors in terms of regulatory sources via collective agreements and laws (Law nº 69 of 1963). Hence, there are numerous differences between the rights of print media workers and those of the majority of other workers. This is due to the distinctive nature of print media activities in comparison with other occupations. With regard to trade union rights, the Unitary Workplace Union Structures (RSU) established by the Workers’ Statute are replaced by editorial committees (Comitati di Redazione, CDR), which may be set up in publishing companies with more than ten editors. The committees supervise application of the agreement, and submit proposals and initiatives to the company. Furthermore, according to the recently-expired collective agreement, a ‘maximum’ weekly working time is established at 36 hours for journalists in Italy. The rights of printers do not significantly differ from those of workers in other sectors.

Although every national social security system covers all workers regardless of the sector, a few countries offer extra protection for print media workers:

• In Greece the main insurance provider in this sector is the Insurance Fund for Press Proprietors, Journalists and Employees (TAISYT), which has been in operation since 1940 and provides basic insurance, supplementary insurance, welfare and health insurance. At a later date, photo reporters, television news cameramen, and foreign press correspondents were also included in the primary insurance and supplementary insurance branches. All proprietors, journalists and employees of newspapers and periodicals published throughout Greece are insured by TAISYT, irrespective of their working contracts (with the exception of the proprietors, journalists and employees of Athens and Thessalonica daily newspapers and journalists who are members of the Journalists’ Unions of Thessaly, Sterea Ellada, Euboia, the Peloponnese, the Islands and Epirus). There is also aPension Fund for Press Employees in Athens and Thessalonica (TSPEATH) for all categories of proprietors, journalists and employees not included in TAISYT. TSPEATH is a provider of primary insurance only. Supplementary insurance is provided by other bodies such as the United Journalists’ Organisation for Supplementary Insurance and Health Care (EDOEAP), the Supplementary Insurance Fund for the Journalists’ Unions of Thessaly, Sterea Ellada and Euboia and the Supplementary Insurance Fund for the Journalists’ Unions of the Peloponnese, Epirus and the Islands. The Insurance Organisation for the Self-Employed insures self-employed journalists who issue invoices for services rendered, and there is also a special Fund for Craftsmen and Small Traders (OAEE - TEBE). The Insurance Fund covers technical personnel employed by the press in Athens for Athens Press Technicians (TATTA). Similar funds also exist for technical personnel employed by the regional press.

• In the Netherlands, the main social security arrangements in the sector are elaborations on the national social security system. Specific social funds financing arrangements in the sector have been established for both journalists and for printers. A financial regulation of childcare, for instance, was established prior to legislation and still is a great success. Further arrangements on (pre-) pension schemes also existed although they have recently been overruled by new legislation and abolished. Specific collective funds are also in place to insure against a fall in income in case of (long-term) disability.

• In Italy, the general regulations on pensions and insurance laid down by law apply to workers in the sector. Besides compulsory enrolment with the National Social Security Institute (INPS) for standard pension entitlements, employees of newspaper publishing, printing companies and press agencies pay into the Fiorenzo Casella supplementary pension fund. A different system applies to journalists (professional, non-professional and/or trainees) who, irrespectively of the sectoral agreement, for social security purposes must be enrolled with the National Journalists Social Security Fund (Istituto Nazionale di Previdenza dei Giornalisti Italiani, INPGI). The INPG, like the INPS, administers two separate pension funds: one for dependent employees (INPGI1) and one for freelancers (INPGI2). One of the INPGI’s functions is to pay benefits to workers placed on the Wage Guarantee Fund (Cassa Integrazione Guadagni, CIG) for the period of time between the day on which they are laid off and approval of the corresponding decree by the Ministry of Labour, and an unemployment allowance in the event of dismissal or resignation amounting to 60% of average pay in the past twelve months and for a period of no longer than one year. Besides the compulsory pension scheme administered by the INPGI, collective bargaining introduced a supplementary pension scheme (Fondo di Previdenza Complementare) for journalists in 2002. As regards health protection, Italian journalists are also enrolled with a specific body, the Supplementary Benefit Fund for Italian Journalists (Cassa Autonoma di Assistenza Integrativa dei Giornalisti Italiani, CASAGIT), which was an offshoot of the INPGI created in 1974.

• In France the 1935 Act gave a specific status to the print media, which was then undergoing social, technological and political change. This status prefigured the laws on social welfare policy passed the following year under the Front Populaire administration. Manual workers and supervisory technical staff employed by the print media industry in the Paris area are covered by a special status established in 1946.

• In Germany all employees subject to social insurance contributions (Sozialversicherungspflichtige) in the media sector are covered by the German social security system, i.e. they are covered by the statutory pension scheme, health insurance and unemployment insurance. For editors on newspapers and magazines, there are also two national collective agreements on additional pensions which are extended by ministerial decree to the whole sector. Journalists who work as freelancers can become members of a public Artists' Social Welfare Fund (Künstlersozialkasse, KSK). This institution, established by the government in 1981, provides for a pension and health insurance and covers freelance actors, artists and writers, including journalists, who are not subject to statutory social insurance contributions.

• Belgian law established a special supplementary retirement pension for professional journalist staff (Royal Decree of 27 July 1971). This pension scheme was created to reward the profession for the important role it played during the two world wars and to compensate for the earnings lost by those who refused to work for the enemy during these periods. This system applies only to ‘professional’ journalists within the meaning of the Law of 30 December 1963 (according to this law, to be recognised as a professional journalist, an individual must have practiced journalism as his main professional activity for at least two years and must work for a general news media). Blue-collar workers in printing companies also receive a supplementary pension through the Supplemental Pension Fund of the Joint Committee.

Trade union and employer associations

Table 6 provides a breakdown of the bargaining level for trade union and employer associations in the 18 countries covered by the study.

Table 6: National trade unions and employer associations - levels of bargaining
An overview of the organisations representing workers and employers in the print media sector in selected European countries and the level of collective bargaining between the two
Country Trade unions Employer associations Level of bargaining
Austria • Printing, Publishing and Paper products Union • White-collar Union of Salaried Employees • Austrian Newspapers’ Association (not affiliated to the CCI) • Austrian Association of Journals (not affiliated to the CCI) • Federal Organisation of Printing and Media Technology Activities Collective bargaining in the printing sector takes place exclusively at sectoral level. In publishing, the collective bargaining level is unclear as social partners only represented by non-compulsory associations.
Belgium • Christian Building and Industry Union • National federation of White-collar Workers • ABEEJ/BVDU (publishers) • Belgian federation of Magazines and UPP • Belgian Federation of Graphic Industries National and sectoral collective bargaining. Wide use of company level bargaining, especially in Flanders, where there are no sectoral agreements for journalists.
Denmark • Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees in the Danish Private Sector • Organisation of Danish Journalists • Graphic Employer Association • Danish Media Employer Association • Danish Newspaper Employer Association National and sectoral collective bargaining. Wide use of company level bargaining.
Finland • Finnish Media Union • Mediaunioni MDU • The Union of Journalists in Finland • Media Employer Association Collective bargaining at sectoral level.
France • Fédération des Travailleurs des Industries du Livre, du Papier et de la Communication CGT • News Magazine Publishing Association • National Association of the Specialist Press Publishers Collective bargaining at national, sectoral and company level.
Germany • United Services Union • German Union of Journalists • German Federation of Journalists • German Printing and Media Industries Federation • Federation of German Newspaper Publishers • German Magazine Publishers Collective bargaining mainly at sectoral and company level. Some at national level.
Greece • Athens Daily Newspaper Journalists’ Union • Union of Journalists of the Periodical and Electronic Press • Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers • Journalists’ Union of Daily Newspapers of the Peloponnese • Journalists’ Union of Daily Newspapers of Thessaly • Athens Daily Periodical Press Technicians’ Association • Athens Daily Newspaper Publishers Association • Publishers’ Association of Regional Hellenic Daily Press • Daily Regional Newspaper Association • Association of Enterprises of the Periodical Press • Union of Periodical Press Journalists and Publishers Collective bargaining at national and sectoral level. Some company level bargaining.
Hungary • Trade Union of the Printed Media Sector • Print Workers Trade Union • Association of Hungarian Publishers • The Federation of Hungarian Printers and Paper Makers Some national collective bargaining.
Ireland • National Union of Journalists • The Graphical Paper and Media Union • The Irish Print Group • The Irish Business and Employers Confederation Collective bargaining at national and company level.
Italy • Communication Workers’ Union • Union of Comic-strip Workers • The Italian Communication Workers’ Union • The Italian National Press federation • Italian Newspaper Publishers’ Federation • Italian Newspaper Printing Association • National Specialist Periodical Publishers’ Association • Italian Publishers’ Association Collective bargaining at national and company level.
Netherlands • Dutch Association of Journalists • Union FNV Kim (Printing professions) • Dutch Publishing Association • Royal Association of Graphical Companies Mainly national and sectoral collective bargaining. Some company level bargaining for the graphic sector.
Norway • Norwegian Union of Journalists • Norwegian Association for Editors • Labour Press Union • Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions • Norwegian Newspaper Publishers’ Association Mainly national collective agreements. Some company and plant level bargaining.
Poland • Section in Solidarnosc • Section in All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions • Interregional Polish Journalists Syndicate • Chamber of Press Publishers • Union of Press Distribution Control Collective bargaining at national and company level.
Slovakia • Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (although no right to participate in collective bargaining, as it is not affiliated to the national federation and is not represented at local level) • Slovak Trade Union of Employees of the Printing Industry • Association of Periodical Press Publishers in Slovakia • Printing Industry Association in Slovakia No collective bargaining in the publishing sector. National level collective agreements in the printing industry.
Slovenia • Slovenia Printing Trade Union • Slovenian Trade Union for Newspaper and Informative Activities • Union of Slovenian Journalists • Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Slovenia: Press and Media section • Slovenian Employer Association: Print, Information, Publishing and Book Trade sections Collective bargaining at national and sectoral level.
Spain • Sections of Union General de Trabajadores • Sections of Comisiones Obreras • Association of Publishers of Spanish Newspapers • Association of Information Magazines • Spanish Association of Press Publishers Collective bargaining at sectoral and company level.
Sweden • Swedish Journalists’ Unions • Salaried Employees’ Union • Graphic and Media Workers’ Union • Swedish Transports’ Union • Swedish Newspaper Publishers’ Association Collective bargaining at national, sectoral and plant level.
UK • National Union of Journalists • Sections of Amicus • The British Printing Industry Federation Collective bargaining at plant, company and sectoral level.

Source: national contributions

Trade unions

Most national correspondents agree that trade unions in the sector engage in industrial relations with employers throughout the media industry and negotiate collectively, as well as individually, for all workers of the sector. Trade unions seek to defend and promote the professional and financial interests and welfare of their members, to promote the principles and practice of journalism, to defend and promote freedom of the media, speech and information and trade union principles and organisation. In most of the above mentioned countries, trade unions are traditionally representative organisations that are able to collectively bargain in a bipartite and tripartite fashion. Most of them are also members of the general national umbrella organisation.

In Slovakia, however, the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSJ), which has been the main representative organisation of employees in the publishing sector since 1990, is not a member of the umbrella trade union organisation and does not have local trade union organisations in publishing companies. In practice, this means that it does not hold any legal right to participate in collective bargaining activities. Although the SSJ regroups most journalists in Slovakia (approximately 2,000), regardless of the type of media they work for and their contractual situation, it cannot represent their interests on the national, sectoral or local level. Its sole mission is therefore to protect freedom of expression. This is, however, not unique to Slovakia but rather common in most East and Central European countries, where collective bargaining still remains fragile. The general lack of organisation by employers and the low level of recognition of national trade unions have weakened the development of collective bargaining activities. In most cases, national collective bargaining is in place although sectoral collective bargaining is generally missing. In Slovenia, however, the situation is different, since the Slovene system is largely based on the traditional Austrian system of social partners’ organisation and collective bargaining practices.

Employer associations

Employer associations, whether they represent bargaining organisations or free non-bargaining associations, are present in all countries and embody the interest of employers and industries. In Austria, however, where membership of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) is compulsory by law, the publishing employers associations are an exception. They are the only employer associations without membership of the CCI, and although all employer associations participate in collective bargaining they have retained their voluntary status. The Austrian publishing industry argues that mandatory membership of any organisation would impair freedom of speech. Although this does not represent an impediment per se to the representation of employers’ interests, it does create certain confusion in collective bargaining practices. The level at which the employer association bargains seems to be unclear. Although most employer associations belong to the main national umbrella organisation, some of them remain outside its scope. This, however, does not deter from their influence in bargaining activities.

Collective bargaining

Although most countries surveyed have a well-functioning tripartite bargaining system, few rely on a solid bipartite organisation. Table 6 highlights the fact that sectoral and company/plant level collective bargaining is the main practice in six of the EU countries studied. Most of them combine national and company level bargaining, whilst sectoral level practices are present in 10 countries. Four of the countries combine all three levels: national, sectoral and company/plant level collective bargaining.

In most of the countries surveyed, the main focus of collective bargaining lies in quantitative issues such as pay, working time, pensions, sick pay, training and working conditions.

Some specific issues can, however, be highlighted:

• Most journalists’ collective agreements contain provisions on copyright protection.

• Three national correspondents state that their countries’ collective agreements also contain specific further training clauses to protect workers from job losses through technological advancement. This is the case in Norway, Austria and the UK.

• Further to this, specific clauses also exist regarding long hours and flexible working time, which are intrinsic to this activity. In Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark specific clauses allow workers to gain extra paid holidays as well as work flexible hours.

• In Denmark, it is interesting to note that collective agreements for journalists also apply to freelancers in order to provide them with the same rights as those given to permanent salaried workers.

• Most of these collective agreements also include clauses on gender equality in the profession.

Industrial conflict

Print and paper workers have historically been some of the best organised workers in the European trade union movement. In the UK, for instance, they were the first to achieve the 40-hour working week, following a six-week strike in 1959. They went onto a further secure 37.5-hour week across the whole printing industry in 1980 and obtained five weeks of annual leave in 1986. Although this section highlights a few national conflicts, it is important to note that six of the responding countries — the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Austria and Slovakia — have not experienced any major industrial conflict in the print media sector in the last few years (none at all in Slovakia).

Among the main reasons reported for industrial conflicts in the print media sector are new technologies and restructuring processes. In the UK, one of the most significant and damaging disputes in recent history occurred in newspaper printing in 1986. An investment by News International in the Fox network (a US company) encouraged the newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch to investigate the introduction of new technology, thereby increasing productivity and reducing costs in his UK newspapers the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times. The key to this was breaking union control over the printing process. Following months of protracted negotiations — covering the end of the closed shop, a no-strike clause and flexible working — the unions were faced with little choice but to strike. On January 16 1986, over 6,000 print staff downed tools and were more or less immediately dismissed. In October 2004, the company also announced it would close the Wapping print operation and move to new greenfield locations with ‘significant’ job losses.

Similarly, in France many major industrial disputes related to the sector’s restructuring have occurred in the daily press industry. The restructuring process is driven both by changes in the ownership of capital (in particular the Dassault group’s take-over of Socpresse, Raymond Lakah’s purchase of France Soir, Rothschild’s acquisition of a shareholding in Libération and Lagardère’s in Le Monde) and the contraction of the daily press under competition from the Internet and the free dailies (primarily 20 minutes and Métro). These two factors are frequently linked. The difficulties brought about by the dwindling readership make it necessary to search for new financial partners, and these impose wide-ranging cutbacks as a pre-condition for investing (as was the case for Libération and Le Monde in particular). These disputes often have two combined dimensions: firstly, the preservation of the journalists’ independence (as was the case for the Figaro’s editorial team and l’Express in the magazine industry in the wake of Serge Dassault’s takeover; for Libération in the wake of Etienne de Rothschild’s takeover, and at France Soir under the new owner Raymond Lakah), and secondly, staff cuts (with downsizing plans for Libération, Le Monde and France Soir in 2005).

In Germany, printing and publishing was one of the most strike-prone industries in the 1970s. This was particularly due to conflicts arising from the introduction of new technologies. Strike activity has declined since then, but both the bargaining round for newspaper editors in 2004 and in printing in 2005 involved industrial action. In 2004, according to trade union figures, about 3,000 workers were involved in strike actions. Industrial action took the form of consecutive waves of short-term strikes. In the 2005 bargaining round in printing, 15,000 employees in 190 establishments participated in so-called ‘warning’ strikes.

Centralisation plans also lead to strike actions across Europe. In Belgium, the print media sector experiences few conflicts compared with other sectors of activity. In general, conflicts take place at company level rather than across the sector. However, the latest major conflict occurred following the announcement by a press group ( Vlaams Uitgever Maatschappij, VUM) of plans to centralise its printing works at a single centre. The move was decided as a result of the tough competition faced by press companies, leading them to seek economies of scale by grouping certain activities.

Further industrial conflicts have mainly been around pay disputes and working conditions. This was the case in the UK, in February 2004, when journalists voted overwhelmingly for a strike following a pay dispute at the Daily Telegraph. This would have been the first strike in the national newspaper sector since 1986. An agreement was reached, however, in March. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) was only established in the newspaper in 2003, with a vote of 361 to 34 in favour, after non-recognition in the early 1990s. The agreement took 15 months to reach and was introduced under the statutory recognition procedure and brokered by the government’s Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). The union accused the company of going to great lengths to obstruct the union’s efforts. In 2005 Amicus was one of the first unions to utilise the CAC to require Macmillan’s Publishers, which employs 1350 people, to establish an information and consultation agreement with the union, following the introduction of the Information and Consultation Regulations earlier in the year. Strike ballots and industrial action occur regularly at local level. In the last year, there have been disputes involving the NUJ over redundancies and pay at the Belfast Telegraph, Sheffield Star, South London Guardian and Bristol Evening Post and at Trinity Mirror’s titles in the Midlands and Wales.

In certain cases, industrial conflicts arise as collective agreements are not fully respected. This is the case in Greece, where a substantial amount of industrial action has taken place in this sector. This occurred as employers failed to observe collective agreements, leading to some illegal dismissals, non-payment of back pay and dilution of collective agreements. It is clear that most industrial action relates to pay and social insurance issues, as well as violations of labour legislation, and often focuses on the work-related problems of journalists employed at specific publications. A similar situation can be observed in Italy, where the question of renewing national collective agreements for journalists has led to fierce conflict in the past year. Discussions have been difficult since the outset and the main union has called many one-day strikes in recent years. At the time of writing, these agreements still had not been renewed and the journalists’ trade union approved a further seven-day strike.

Finally, it is interesting to highlight that in Finland, unlike in other sectors, the print media sector’s collective agreements include an absolute duty to maintain industrial peace.

Table 7: Number of days lost in the print media sector in 2002, 2003 and 2004
Overview of the amount of days lost from 2002 to 2004 in the print media sector in Belgium, Germany and the UK
Country 2002 2003 2004
Belgium 60,954 N/A N/A
Germany 7,712 1,995 4,081
UK 6,000 9,000 2,000

Source: national contributions

Although there are very few figures available on the number of working days lost in 2002, 2003 and 2004, we can see from Table 7 that there is little strike movement in the countries where data is available compared to other sectors of industry.

Issues specific to the sector

New technologies, new forms of work organisation and employment

New technologies have played a significant part in the emergence of new forms of work organisation in the print media sector, such as home working and working on the move (following the advent of laptops). In addition, digitalisation began to have a serious impact on the print industry in the 1970s with the computerisation of typography. This led to the desktop publishing revolution. Although the inroad of digitalisation means that digital printing is now integral to the entire printing sector, it is still difficult to find recent studies on the subject and figures are not always readily available. However, a few national examples can be highlighted.

The effects of digitalisation seem to have a strong impact on the sector’s occupations. The Slovene correspondent, for instance, reports that the prevailing technology in printing companies in Slovenia is still offset print, though new technologies such as digital and flexographic print have recently been introduced. Trade unions report that these new technologies are causing the disappearance, or diminishing of importance, of some previously existing occupations (such as compositors, photographs and retouchers) and the creation of new occupations (such as computer technicians). In Spain, the number of self-employed workers in the sector seems to have increased significantly due to the emergence of new technologies. With the extension of internet usage, online journalism has also become very common. Both Spanish trade union confederations offer special training programmes for online journalism.

In Germany, too, the introduction of new technologies has been a major issue since the 1970s, when the bargaining parties in printing agreed on various collective agreements covering qualification and employment, in order to deal with the consequences of these new technologies. Home-working and teleworking are increasingly present in journalism. The extent of this remains unknown but it can be assumed that most freelancers in journalism are home workers.

In Belgium, the main technological developments in the print media sector also occurred in the early 1980s. Shortly thereafter, a collective agreement was signed to govern the introduction and use of the new technologies (26 November 1986). This agreement establishes that there could be no dismissals following the introduction of new technologies. Today, certain items in collective bargaining still refer to the new technologies in Belgium:

  • The social partners in the graphics sector are currently negotiating a new classification of duties. The emergence of new technologies is leading to the elimination of certain types of job and the creation of new ones.
  • The sectoral agreement signed by the social partner’s states that ‘in the event of the introduction of new technologies, the contracting parties agree to study jointly the problems that might result and that the editorial staff shall be involved from the start in studies for the implementation of new systems that could have an influence on its organisation’.

Atypical workers

An in-depth analysis of the national contributions shows that very few concrete actions have been taken to protect the increasing number of atypical workers in the sector. Ireland is one of the few countries in which a number of collective agreements covering freelance workers can be found. A number of industrial relations and legal issues have emerged in relation to freelancers. In particular, trade unions with members who work on a freelance basis face the prospect of being subject to competition law and consequently could be liable to prosecution for price fixing in their efforts to set minimum rates for the job. For example, in 1997, the Regional Newspapers Authority of Ireland (RNAI), which represents the majority of regional newspapers around the country, informed the NUJ of its intention to abandon the longstanding agreement on minimum rates of pay for freelance workers. Legal council sought by the Association warned that the freelance agreement between the NUJ and the RNAI, though not legally enforceable, could be considered to fall under the scope of the Competition Act, 1991, and in breach of Section 4 of that Act. An approach from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over the Competition Authority treatment of freelance workers has brought this long-running issue to another level. However, the area remains a legal minefield. The ICTU has complained to the ILO about the use of competition law to prevent collective bargaining by freelance workers.

The debate in Italy is taking place around the issue of ‘false self-employment’. To combat this practice, a recommendation is made in the Community-level agreement, signed by the representative trade unions. It lays down the working conditions that differentiate a journalist who must have an employment contract from a self-employed journalist: it can be concluded that there is an employment contract if the journalist is answerable to the publisher. Although various criteria can indicate the existence of such a relationship (working on the publisher's premises, set working hours, etc.), ‘all the legal and de facto elements of the relationship between the publisher and the journalist must be taken into consideration as a whole, to determine the presence or absence of answerability’. Furthermore, ‘the parties recommend that contentious situations be settled and that no new ones be created’.

In Germany, however, part-time and fixed-term employees are covered in the same way as other employees by the collective agreements in printing and publishing. If self-employed journalists work at least a third of their time for one single employer, then they are treated as Arbeitnehmerähnliche i.e. similar to other employees. In the newspaper sector there is also a special collective agreement for this group of employees. Freelancers and fully self-employed journalists, however, are not considered to be employees and are not entitled to collective agreements. The representative trade unions have, nonetheless, issued so-called recommendations on pay issues. These recommendations are now considered as reference guidelines for pay and remunerations.

Italy highlights that the question of the contracts of freelance journalists and atypical workers is at the centre of negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement. The following issues are under discussion: written contracts for freelance workers, proportionality of pay to the quantity and quality of the services rendered, non-alterability of articles and features signed by the author, and the creation of a Joint Conciliation Committee in the event of disputes on application of atypical contracts. Following the recent reform of the labour market in Italy, and in view of the constant growth of freelance work, new regulations seem necessary. However, no agreement has yet been reached and the parties do not seem to agree on terms and conditions.

Freedom of speech: ethical codes

Table 8 shows that many countries have one or more ethical codes for journalism. Eight of them also have an ethics council enforcing these codes. Only three of them, however, have established a legal basis for these codes and councils. In most other countries, these codes and councils have been established by trade unions, whilst in Austria they have been established by an employer association. The section below and the data in Table 8 provide detailed information on existing national journalism codes of ethics and ethics councils, and their legal basis:

Table 8: Codes of ethics, ethics councils and legal bases in European countries
An overview of which countries in the survey have a code of ethics or an ethics council for the print media sector and describing its legal basis
Country Code of ethics Ethics council Legal basis
Austria Code for the Austrian Media Enterprises and Workers No Employer association
Denmark Act on Media Responsibility Act on Mass Media Information Databases Press Complaints Commission Legislation
Finland Guidelines for journalists Council for Mass Media in Finland Legislation
France N/A N/A N/A
Germany Article 5 of the Basic Law (German constitution) Press Code Advertising Code • German Press Council • German Advertising Council Legislation
Greece Code of Professional Ethics and Social Responsibility No Trade union
Hungary No Freedom House Advisory
Italy Journalists Code of Principles No Trade union
Norway Code of Ethics of the Norwegian Press Code for Rights and Duties of the Editor Code for Editorial Advertising Pressens Faglige Utvalg Legislation
Poland Code of Journalistic Ethics Media Ethics Charter Media Ethics Council Trade union
Slovakia Code of Journalistic Ethics Association for Protection of Press Ethics Trade union
UK Code of Practice for journalists pending NUJ Press Code Ethics Council Trade union (and legislation pending)

Source: National contributions

In Slovenia, the new Journalist Code was passed in 2002 by the Association of Journalists of Slovenia (Društvo novinarjev Slovenije). The code relates to the work of journalists, conflicts of interests, general ethical norms, journalists’ rights and their relations with the public. In 2001, the association passed the code of inadmissibility of hidden advertisements and misuse of journalistic space. A further code was passed in 2005 by the newspaper Finance, in order to comply with the European legislation in the field of insurance of the securities market.

In Finland, Guidelines for journalists and the Council for Mass Media in Finland (Julkisen sanan neuvosto) form the basis of self-regulation of the mass media. The Guidelines for journalists state the journalists’ and publishers’ ethical principles. The Council for Mass Media interprets good journalistic practice and defends freedom of speech and the right to publication. Journalists’ collective agreements also include references to good journalistic practice.

In Italy, the Journalist’s Charter of Duties (Carta dei Doveri del Giornalista), signed by the National Council of the Order of Journalists and by the FNSI, has been in place since July 1993. This Charter states that the freedoms of information and criticism are enshrined in the Italian Constitution and represent — in accordance with article 2 of law no. 69 of 1963 — fundamental rights of journalists. The charter also lays down a series of rights and duties with which journalists must comply in pursuit of their profession. Other ethical codes regulating the profession as follows:

• The Codice Deontologico, set out by Law 675 of 1996 on privacy, came into force in August 1998 and regulates the handling of personal information.

• The Carta di Informazione e Pubblicità is a memorandum of understanding signed by journalists, advertising agencies and public relations associations, which enables members of the public to determine the origin of disclosures and obliges journalists to verify their ‘truthfulness’ and, if necessary, correct or withdraw facts.

• The Carta di Treviso, a memorandum of understanding signed by the Order of Journalists with the National Press Federation and in collaboration with Telefono Azzurro (a nationwide child helpline) and supplemented in 1990, seeks to ensure the anonymity of child victims or perpetrators of crime, or those who are at psychological risk.

• The Carta Informazione e Sondaggi, drawn up on the basis of an agreement between the Order of Journalists and Association of Market, Polling, Opinion and Social Research (Associazione degli Istituti di Ricerche di Mercato, Sondaggi, Opinione, e Ricerca Sociale, ASSIRM), deals with the accuracy of poll and survey information and the techniques with which such information is obtained.

• The recent Carta dei Doveri dell’Informazione Economica, approved by the National Council of the Order of Journalists in February 2005, supplements the norms laid down by the 1993 Charter on economic and financial journalism.

In the UK, the House of Commons Culture Media and Sports Select Committee on press regulation recommended a code of practice for journalists under the Press Complaints Commission in 2003. The NUJ also has its own code, which was first drawn up in 1936 and is an important part of self-regulation. Since 1986, the union has also had an Ethics Council charged with upholding professional standards. One of the Ethics Council's functions is to rule on complaints against members facing complaints that they have breached the code of conduct. Much of the union's press freedom work is done with and through the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

In Germany, the freedom of the press is laid down in Article 5 of the Basic Law (German constitution). There are some additional privileges for journalists aimed at securing the protection of source confidentiality and there is a general right to get information from public authorities if it is not declared confidential. Two ethical codes for journalism exist. One is a press code issued by the German Press Council (Deutscher Presserat). The journalistic principles of the German Press Council, which was founded in 1956, define the professional ethics of the press. This comprises the duty of maintaining the standing of the press and standing up for the freedom of the press within the legal framework. For those working in advertising there is a second code, issued by the German Advertising Council (Deutscher Werberat). This code defines ethical guidelines for advertisements. Both councils have an established procedure for complaints by users of media.

In Austria, there is an ethical code for the Austrian media enterprises and workers drawn up by the Austrian Press Council (Östereichischer Presserat), a voluntary consortium of media companies. This code is, however, not legally binding.

In Norway, the main professional code is the Code of Ethics of the Norwegian Press. There is also a code of ethics for editors called Rights and Duties of the Editor. In addition, there is a professional code with regard to editorial advertising. The different organisations within the press (newspapers, broadcasting and others) are represented in Norsk Presseforbund, a joint body for Norwegian mass media on ethical and editorial issues and professional standards. This body approves the different professional/ethical codes mentioned above, and may also issue general statements on issues related to the ethics of journalism/media. Connected to Norsk Presseforbund, a complaints board has also been put in place (Pressens Faglige Utvalg) for the public to file complaints if it feels that professional codes are violated. Norsk Presseforbund is also engaged in the principle of free accessibility in relation to official public documents and records.

In Poland, freedom of information and opinion in the Polish press sector is ensured first and foremost by the Press Law and by the legislative act regarding access to public information, as well as by the national constitution enacted in 1997. An initiative towards self-regulation, meanwhile, exists through the Code of Journalistic Ethics, adopted by the Polish Journalists Association (SDP) in 1995 and in the Media Ethics Charter, drawn up in 1995 at the behest of the Polish Journalists Association. The Charter’s signatories included leaders of the SDP, the Catholic Journalist Association (Katolickie Stowarzyszenie Dziennikarzy, KDS), the Syndicate of Polish Journalists, the Journalists Trade Union, the Press Publishers Union, Telewizja Polska S.A., Telewizja Polsat, the Association of Independent Film and Television Producers (Stowarzyszenie Niezaleznych Producentów Filmowych i Telewizyjnych, SNPFiT), Polskie Radio S.A., The Polish Public Radio Association (Stowarzyszenie Radia Publicznego w Polsce, SRP), the Polish Private Radiophony Association (Stowarzyszenie Polskiej Prywatnej Radiofonii, SPPR) and the Trade Union of Radio and Television Journalists (Zwiazek Zawodowy Dziennikarzy Radia i Telewizji, ZZDRiT). The Charter’s signatories have convened a Media Ethics Council, which brings together representatives of the journalistic, press publishing, and broadcasting communities. The Council is charged with enforcing certain principles, ruling publicly on matters of the Charter’s observance and interpreting its provisions.

In Greece, the 1998 Code of Professional Ethics and Social Responsibility applies to members of the journalists’ unions. The Code lays down the principles of ethics for journalism as a profession. Consisting of eight articles, it aims to reaffirm and safeguard the social role played by journalists in the new socio-economic conditions, discouraging state and other interventions, and ensuring journalists’ freedom of information and expression and their independence and dignity, as well as safeguarding freedom of the press.

In Denmark, journalists are subject to Danish laws, i.e. the Act on Media Responsibility (Medieansvarsloven) and the Act on Mass Media Information Databases (Lov om massemediers informationsdatabaser). The former, which contains regulations about who is accountable to criminal law and law of tort, states that the contents of the media should be in agreement with the standards of good media, and gives the right of reply to media outputs. To do so, a person feeling maltreated by the media can file a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (Pressenævnet). The latter law lays down a set of rules concerning information databases and public information databases.

In Italy, a Journalist's Code of Principles was adopted in 1982. This text is an integral part of the Community-level agreement but is not legally binding. Its content is comparable to the Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists adopted in 1971 at European level.

In Slovakia, the constitution of the Slovak Republic safeguards the citizens’ rights on information and freedom of expression. The Code of Journalistic Ethics, signed in 1990, is aimed at supporting the independence of journalists from their publishers and is binding for the members of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists (SSN). In 2001, the SSN and the Slovak Union of Press Publishers (ZVPT) further established the Association for Protection of Press Ethics (Asociácia na ochranu novinárskej etiky). In 2002, the association established a press board. At present, there is a discussion about the draft press law that should regulate rights and obligations when obtaining, processing and publishing information and its dissemination through communication media. The aim of the law is to guarantee conditions for the free exercise of journalistic activities and the protection of persons against the misuse of freedom of expression. According to the draft law, the right of publishers and journalists for ethical self-regulation is secured. The ethical self-regulation of journalists is also supported by the ZVPT and the SSN.

In Hungary, no legal or social partner entity has been established to provide for a formal code. The Freedom House is an advisory entity which produces the annual Press Freedom Survey. According to the 2002 Press Freedom Survey, the status of journalists’ freedom in Hungary seems to have gradually improved in the past decades, particularly following the political transition. The 2002 survey highlighted that Hungarian media remained free, although it identified some economic influences on media content as the most problematic issue.

In Norway, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is responsible for defending press freedom and maintaining the standard of its members’ work. The union recognises that press freedom is in the hands of journalists and gives them support whenever it is needed. The state has political imperatives and publishers have commercial imperatives. The threats come from commercial as much as political directions. Since 1936, the union has had a Code of Professional Conduct, the first of its kind and still the bedrock of independent journalism. It is part of the union’s rules and all members, when they join, sign it. Furthermore, the NUJ has had an ethics council charged with upholding professional standards since 1986. One of the ethics councils’ functions is to rule on complaints against members who have breached the code of conduct. But the code's disciplinary role is less important than its instructive role. Its main purpose is to inform all journalists’ about good practice at work. On behalf of journalists, the union makes representations and lobbies the government in defence of press freedom whenever issues likely to threaten it arise.

Impact of EU-level dialogue and regulation

Degree and impact of European debate and dialogue

The degree of impact of European-level debate and dialogue seems to be rather low in most of the countries studied, as nine countries state that no impact is yet felt. In Denmark, however, the national correspondent states that trade unions are indirectly influenced by the European Social Dialogue Committee, as members of the European Federation of Journalists. Figures on the level and degree of influence are, however, not readily available. It is interesting to see that in Italy, although there is no specific reference to initiatives by the European Commission, various organisations have been set up in the printing industry to foster dialogue between the social partners. These go under the name Technical Observatory on Newspaper and Press Agencies (Osservatorio Tecnico per i Quotidiani e le Agenzie di Stampa). They are run by a six-member joint committee and collect, process and disseminate data and research on various subjects relating to the Italian publishing industry. The observatory is also the venue for a six-monthly social partners’ talk on trends in the sector. The Committee for Technologies, as well as the Equal Opportunities Committee, the Committee for Vocational Training and Retraining, and the Committee for the Environment and Safety are also present in Italy.

Furthermore, the European Convention of Human Rights was incorporated into French law when the Treaty of Maastricht was adopted, and has not been without consequences on account of its Article 10 on freedom of expression, which historically has been rigorously regulated in France (since and because of World War II). The Goodwin ruling of the European Court of Justice, which acknowledges the need to protect journalists’ sources, helped bolster the legal framework governing the profession’s work.

Influence of European Union regulation

European regulation for fixed-term employees has been the starting point of the freelance strategy adopted by the trade unions in Denmark. European regulation on the 48 hour maximum working week has also been an important tool for the Danish trade unions in their negotiations over working time. This has traditionally been a difficult issue for trade unions there. Danish trade unions have further engaged in social dialogue to secure collective copyrights to freelancers and have been able to negotiate collective agreements, most of which give freelancers some rights of use to their products.

Since it was passed in 1987, the Intellectual Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Intelectual) in Italy has been modified several times in order to incorporate the successive European directives harmonising authors' rights in the member states of the European Union. At present there are also two directives pending incorporation in Spain: Directive 2001/29/EC, on the harmonisation of certain aspects of authors' rights and similar rights in the information society — commonly known as the Information Society Directive — and Directive 2001/84/EC on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art, whose period of introduction terminates on 1 January 2006. The incorporation of the Information Society Directive in the different national legislations has been complicated and slow, as was its development within the EU. In November 2002, the previous Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport published a draft bill which took advantage of the introduction of the Information Society Directive to make a far-reaching reform of the Intellectual Property Law. This led to a heated debate and an unofficial second version of the draft was published some months later. Following the last general elections, new texts remained undefined.

Directive 2001/29/EC was also transposed into Italian law by a legislative decree (no. 68 of 9 April 2003). The national agreement for journalists signed in 2001 (which expired in February 2006) introduced a provision stating that the two main unions, the FIEG and the FNSI, should conduct a joint assessment on aspects of common interest deriving from the legislative evolution of copyright.

Furthermore, in Finland, the employers associations are suggesting changing the copyright legislation so that companies/publishers would benefit from broader/unambiguous ownership of rights. The European Federation of Journalists has issued an appeal to national unions and associations to press for increased intellectual property protection for journalists under European Union law. At present journalists’ copyright is agreed upon in several ways in Finland, both in the collective agreement and through agreements within companies.

The German government implemented Directive 2001/29/CE regarding authors’ rights by way of legislation in 2003. During the legislative process, both the employer associations in publishing and the trade union were consulted and submitted statements. Further legislation concerning the implementation of the directive was prepared in 2004. Once again, statements were submitted by employers and trade unions. The proposal of the European Commission to demand the storage of details of all EU-wide telephone calls and Internet use for between six months and one year to help combat terrorism and serious crime, however, caused serious concerns for publishers and trade unions. In December 2005, the Association of German Press Publishers (VDZ) issued a statement warning that an extensive storage and control of telephone and Internet connections would allow authorities to infringe the protection of source confidentiality which was essential for journalists. The German Association of Journalists (DJV) issued a similar statement. In December 2005, the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) issued a statement in the press criticising the plans of the European Commission on advertisement and product placement in television programmes. The BDZV fears that if the strict division between advertisement and programme is blurred, this will damage the credibility of all the media not only in the audiovisual but also in the print sector. Further to this, in September 2005 the European Federation of Journalists organised a meeting on freelancers' rights in Europe.

France has been slow to integrate Directive 2001/29/CE of the European Parliament and the European Council of 22 May 2001 into national legislation. Like other member states it should have incorporated the directive into law by 22 December 2002, and then immediately notified the European Commission. The government thus put an emergency procedure into operation to pass the bill as France had recently been cited for failure to act by the European Court of Justice. The draft law is still at committee stage, providing for the following:

  • The National Broadcasting Institute (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel) will be responsible for the 5,000 websites relating to radio and television.
  • The French National Library (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) will deal with the statutory recording of the contents of the 200,000 other sites used that do not relate to the media and whose size is generally much smaller.

This draft law remains highly controversial in France. The Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Chambre de commerce et d’Industrie de Paris, CCIP), on whose board the French Business Enterprises (Mouvement des entreprises de France, MEDEF) has seats, emphasises the necessity for this draft to confine itself to the transposition of the Directive into law, without adding further provisions, because the stakes are of such importance that they require a separate debate. On the union side, the SNJ-CGT has criticised the serious threat to professional writers’ royalties.

Slovakia also implemented Directive 2001/29/CE on 1 January 2004, while maintaining national legislation in place. The directive’s implementation has had no specific impact on the regulatory framework of industrial relations system in print media.


The introduction of increasingly advanced technologies, the relative restructuring and reorganisation of production processes, and the need to create conditions of economic stability are the main issues for companies in the print media sector. These developments have huge effects on employment.

The greatest challenge for the print media sector today is still that of the restructuring processes that have been taking place lately (mainly through mergers and takeovers) and which have reduced surplus capacities in terms of both companies and employees. A good example for the effects of this process can be found in Austria. In the face of continuously falling market prices of print products and increasing competitive pressure from so-called low-wage countries, the main employer association in Austria, in line with the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ), is calling for an amendment to the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz) in order to further relax working hours regulations, and for a reduction of non-wage labour costs. The union side is clearly opposed to this and points to leeway left for collective bargaining on working time flexibility. Working time will thus probably be the main issue to deal with in the forthcoming bargaining rounds in printing.

Furthermore, industrial relations in the publishing sub-sector in Austria are interesting because, firstly, the system of employer organisations differs from standard practice, in that voluntary employer associations are engaged in collective bargaining (whereas collective bargaining in the vast majority of sectors is carried out by the branch sub-units of the mandatory WKÖ). Conflicts over the possible inclusion of Austria’s publishing corporations into the WKÖ’s domain between the Austrian Press Publishers (VÖZ) and the former again flared up in the beginning of the current decade. Secondly, the union membership domain of the journalists was transferred when the journalists’ section left the Union for Art, Media , Sports and the Self-employed (KMSfB) and joined the Union for Print, Journalism and Paper (GDJP) in 2001. However, there are still some journalists organised in the KMSfB, although negotiating rights for journalists shifted to the GDJP. These developments have not only caused tensions between the two unions, but have also challenged the Austrian Trade Union Federation’s (ÖGB) leadership, which was forced to redefine union demarcation lines. Against this background, inter-union competition for journalist members has continued. During the last few years, GDJP has repeatedly issued the problem of still growing numbers of freelance journalists and of the widespread employer’s practice of engaging freelance workers merely in order to bypass labour law and avoid social security contributions. The GDJP has therefore demanded from the employer side that they regularly employ at least those freelance workers which have mainly and continuously worked for one client for three years or longer. Such demands have not been granted by the vast majority of employers so far.

Some recent trends in industrial relations are apparent in the ongoing negotiations on renewal of the national collective agreements for journalists. In some of the participant countries there are particularly tough talks taking place with no sign of concrete agreement between publishers and journalists. This is the case in Italy, for instance, where the Federation of Italian Journalists (FNSI) — which has strong bargaining powers compared with other industrial sectors — recently approved a further seven days of strike action. Besides the question of pay, the dispute is centred on regulation of atypical forms of employment, and freelance work in particular. The FNSI calls for these to be subject to regulation - for their rights to be protected in the same way as salaried permanent workers. From the point of view of representation, this action is an element of absolute importance and innovation in the negotiations. It also demonstrates the extent of division between dependent and freelance journalists, as well as the extent to which trade unions are committed to protecting the latter category.

The regulation of freelance work, however, remains a very delicate matter, for it comprises a wide variety of needs, occupational positions and worker characteristics. In Danish collective agreements, although journalists’ trade unions are working concretely on improving the conditions for freelancers, some crucial issues still remain. The national correspondent reports that the media business in a broad sense, including graphic and printing branches, is also characterised by many freelancers or self-employed in Denmark. Problems arise in defining freelancer status, corresponding protective legislation and collective agreements. It is not clear whether the freelancers are considered as self-employed or as wage-earners. However, these issues remain crucial in relation to legislation on unemployment insurance funds, legislation on tax and VAT, and further social issues negotiated in the collective agreements, such as pensions, maternity leave and sick pay.

In most cases, national legislation and collective agreements remain widely insufficient and in some cases blurred and inexact. In Spain, for instance, the introduction of new forms of work due to the incorporation of new technologies has also led to an increase in precarious working conditions. This is thought to be the result of increasing fragmentation of the labour market and new forms of labour contracts. It seems to allow for a large part of the responsibility to be passed on to workers with precarious working conditions. In some cases, although national trade unions are still strong and able to protect their members’ rights, there is an increase in the number of non-member employees. These find themeselves more often in non-standard forms of employment and therefore not covered by collective agreements, as is the case in Slovenia. The ongoing debate over journalists’ collective agreements is a good example of this crisis.

In Belgium, where the structure of collective bargaining in the print media sector is complex (due to the fact that two different joint committees cover blue-collar workers on the one hand and white-collar workers on the other and because French- and German-speaking journalists are covered by a non-binding collective agreement), trade unions support the introduction of a joint committee specific to the print media sector. This ‘Joint Committee for Print Media, Publishing and the Graphic Arts Industry’, would have jurisdiction over ‘workers, whose occupation is primarily intellectual in nature, and their employers, whose main or secondary business activities are the following:

• the design and production of daily newspapers, weeklies or periodicals on paper or electronic media;

• the activities of publishers or communication agencies.

• pre-press or printing works’.

The existence of such a joint committee would enable employees in the sector to be covered by collective agreements that take into account the specific characteristics of the sector, rather than by the very general Joint Committee 218. However, it is important to note that publishers’ associations are opposed to the introduction of such a joint committee, as is the employer association in general. As a professional association, the latter could not be represented in the joint committee (by virtue of a 1968 law, only horizontal workers' organisations with at least 50,000 members can sit on joint committees) and consequently would not be allowed to negotiate the collective agreements applicable to journalists. This does not deter from the fact that the employer association has been defending journalists' interests for 50 years. It would be useful if this legislation could be amended for equal participation of all social partners and workers. Without such a measure, the nature of social dialogue might start to change in the print media sector.

Further examples of this situation are highlighted in other countries. In Germany, for instance, where the most important issue for the future of industrial relations in the print media sector is whether the predominance of sectoral bargaining can be maintained, this is especially risky in the print media sector, where some employers have left the employer association (BVDM) or have opted for a so-called OT-membership. This membership does not require them in the future to honour the collective agreements concluded by the BVDM. The trade unions are therefore challenged to conclude company-level agreements. In publishing, it remains to be seen whether there will be further takeovers of Germany based newspapers by foreign investors and whether this will have any impact on sectoral industrial relations. At the European level, it remains to be seen whether the establishment of European Works Councils will make significant progress in the future.

Interestingly, the printing sector is unique in the UK in the sense that it is a major private sector that still operates national multi-employer bargaining. Not only that, but the principal national agreement has developed into a ‘partnership agreement’ based on mutual recognition and commitments in terms of the process as well as substantive outcomes of industrial relations. Industrial conflict is therefore rare, despite the pace of change and competitive challenges faced, although parts of newspaper publishing remain more antagonistic for both journalists and print workers alike.

In general, it is important to highlight that the media sector seems to be undergoing a legitimacy crisis. In France, for instance, a number of uncertainties have developed in this area. These mainly stem from restructuring that has resulted from recent takeovers (Ouest-France and Socpresse), which have in no way assuaged the tensions felt in industrial relations on account of the precarious employment situation of employees. In the first place, the growth of ‘people’s journalism’, in the form of blogs, has led to competition and above all serious critical engagement vis-à-vis the traditional media. In the second place, the issue of journalistic neutrality was the subject of a heated debate in the recent European Constitution referendum campaign, with a section of public opinion critically questioning the information that was being broadcast. Moreover, a rise in the power of alternative ‘people’s media’ was witnessed in the course of the campaign. For the daily press, this phenomenon has gone hand-in-hand with economic pressure stemming from increase in the availability of free news, whether on the internet or in hard copy. In particular, the spread of the free dailies, 20 minutes and Métro, which have a countrywide coverage, considerably reduced the readership and advertising income of the press. This competition is all the more acute in the current context of a crisis of confidence in the traditional media: according to a TNS-Sofres poll carried out in early 2005, the free dailies are not seen as any less trustworthy than other newspapers, and the way they are funded (i.e. exclusively through advertising) is viewed as problematic by only a little over one third of those polled.

In most of the new Member States of the EU, although the situation is quite similar regarding new forms of work, restructuring and journalists’ rights, further organisational problems have arisen. In Slovakia, for instance, changes taking place in printing plants were mainly related to a decrease in the level of sectoral collective agreement coverage. This was brought about by certain trade union restructuring processes. Established trade union organisations slowly disappeared from companies and were replaced by independent trade union organisations. These operate only at company level and only negotiate plant level collective agreements.

In the case of Poland, social dialogue in the print media sector is just beginning to take place. The national correspondent highlights an erosion of the remnants of consensual relations between employers and employees. In turn, social dialogue within the sector was best organised and most predictable during the socialist period. The paradox lies in the fact that the old communist regime tended to harbour oppressive instincts towards many professional groups, with selected vocations — journalists certainly being one — singled out for nearly total control. This was in clear violation of the principles of freedom of speech and freedom to draw information from varied sources. After 1989, progressive privatisation of the Polish press industry led to an increasing decline in industrial relations. In the face of endemic unemployment among journalists and high rates of staff turnover, retaining employees on the basis of various short-term contracts became common. Furthermore, many of the people thus employed for what is essentially journalistic work are not professional journalists, but various part-timers and students employed through temporary work agencies. These conditions are less than conducive to increase professionalism among journalists and also contribute to a certain fatigue pervading the entire system. In summary, it can be said that the Polish print media sector does not benefit from any social dialogue. This situation represents a risk not only for social dialogue in the print media sector, but also for the culture of European social dialogue.

Céline Lafoucriere, Fundación CIREM, Madrid

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