Tough time for African journalist unions

African journalists are having a hard time to claim their right to union representation, a workshop held in Windhoek heard over the weekend.

29 November 2021 | Labour

STAFF REPORTER

The director of the Namibia Media Trust (NMT), Zoe Titus, says journalist unions in Africa are experiencing a very challenging time since declining membership has resulted in reduced bargaining power and scope.

Titus was the guest speaker at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on strategic union building, organised by the Namibia Media Professional Union (Nampu), in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

"Some media employers have adopted sophisticated tactics such as employing direct contract systems with employees, categorising journalists as essential workers or using individual pay agreements, and intimidating journalists who venture into union activities,” she said.

Titus added: “The tactics also include dismissing and harassing union leaders and organisers, and a range of sophisticated human resources management techniques to suppress the desire for unionisation.”

Nampu secretary-general Sakeus Iikela said the workshop provided a learning experience for executive members of Nampu and journalists.

He emphasised that Nampu had opened its doors to all journalists in Namibia, especially young journalists working online, freelance journalists and journalists working in the public media.

Fundamental human rights

The director of the IFJ Africa office, Pa Louis Thomasi, said the right to freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining are fundamental human rights that are guaranteed by ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

“As journalists we must realise that we also belong to the working class and hence have the right to form a union or to join a union of our choice.

“Any employer who denies any journalist his or her right to join a union of his or her choice has violated the right to freedom of association and should be challenged in court. We will not negotiate for the rights that we already have".

The workshop dealt with a wide range of issues including the state of the media in Namibia, labour rights in Namibia, trade union alliances, cybersecurity, the safety of journalists and role of journalists in promoting trade unionism, freelance journalists, the decent work agenda and youth recruitment.

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