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Journalists Revolt Against Right Wing Press Barons

Media Workers Revolt Against Right Wing Press Barons

Guest commentary by Joe Carolan

A revolt over pay and union organisation has seen industrial action and strikes hit production of New Zealands major newspapers, including Wellington's Dominion, Christchurch's Press and the right wing bosses newspaper, the New Zealand Herald. The action comes only weeks after a vicious editorial in the Herald condemning Mayday and the anti capitalist movement- these same managers are now waging their anti worker crusade against their own writers.

The latest strike is part of an ongoing dispute over the right to choose whether to be on a collective or individual employment agreement. More than 100 walked out because of attempts by their employer, Tony O Reilly controlled Wilson and Horton, to remove more than 30 editorial positions from the collective agreement. The strike took out the paper's key political team, forcing editorial executives to cover the Budget themselves.

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said that negotiations for a new collective agreement broke down when management refused to back away from its divide-and-rule tactic.

"The employer wants Press Association (NZPA) journalists to agree that filing editors, desk editors, branch office staff and anybody on a salary will be excluded from the collective agreement," he said.

"This is the same as moves by NZPA's major shareholders, INL and Wilson and Horton, to force large numbers of journalists out of newspaper collective agreements, despite the wishes of the people concerned.”

O Reilly's company offered journalists a three-year deal with a derisory two per cent pay rise each year. Inflation is currently three per cent. It originally only offered 1.5 per cent for a one-year deal- a pay cut, whichever way you look at it.

The union are calling on readers to boycott the paper and its website while the dispute continues.

The Herald's owner, Tony O Reilly is the richest man in Ireland, and is widely hated there for his anti union attacks. His Evening Herald and Independent newspapers there attacked the recent strike waves of nurses, taxi drivers, teachers and airport workers, and there has just been a strike of journalists and printers at his main Dublin plant.

In NZ, the action is spreading- journalists at the Wellington morning newspaper The Dominion have also walked off the job, again severely affecting that paper's budget coverage. Dominion journalists are angry that their employer, Rupert Murdoch-controlled INL, is refusing to negotiate an employment agreement to cover all its daily newspapers and the Auckland suburban newspapers.

Unity With Printers, Production Key

On the 19th May, printers at The Press newspaper in Christchurch joined the strike action. All nine non-management members of the key rotary gang which operates the newspaper's presses walked out at 10pm in protest over publisher INL's refusal to negotiate a national collective employment agreement. The strike delayed the next days paper and caused problems for deliveries.

Printers, electricians and engineers at Wellington's Dominion, also went on strike for an hour between 11pm and midnight, in solidarity with Dominion journalists.

The key to winning the strike is unity between the journalists and the printers. A union ban on printing and distribution of New Zealand newspapers until management recognises the union collectives will stop the profits of O Reilly and Murdoch.

Striking journalists need this solidarity, as at the moment management can organise scabbing by freelancers, or attempt to do the work themselves. A national strike affecting all newspapers, both urban and local, will also make this an issue for the wider trade union movement, and collections and solidarity action could be taken to support the Media workers.

And, in the spirit of anti capitalist internationalism their managers and editors scowled and scorned in their editorials, NZ journalists should contact their colleagues in O Reilly/ Murdoch publications overseas, many of whom have faced or will face similar attacks in the future.

Groups who have found themselves at the receiving end of the NZ Herald's scathing editorials, should join the pickets of the striking journalists. Wharfies, Mayday activists, anti capitalists and students should take the battle against the right wing media into its heart, and win many journalists and printers to the cause.

Joe Carolan is a writer for the fortnightly newspaper that is on the side of everyone fighting back - Socialist Worker.

Letters welcome, as are writers and contributors!


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