New Delhi: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has called upon all working journalists and editors to raise their voice against the “so-called” labour reforms unleashed by the Narendra Modi government by bringing in a labour code Bill as also repeal two legislations “that protect the unique character of the profession of journalism” - Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1955, and the Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958.
In a statement, IJU said: “The government sought to equate ‘fourth estate’ with any other industry, but worse has brazenly favored the corporate media barons who have persistently been demanding to abolish the Wage Board and do away with the Working Journalists Act.”
The journalists union’s call comes in the backdrop of several protests by workers across the country – from the lowest paid to the highest – as well as the recent call by trade unions for a countrywide protest against the proposed codification of the currently existing 44 central labour laws by the Bharatiya Janata Party government.
The IJU said its main objection was with Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code subsuming the Working Journalists Act of 1955 – an Act which is the foundation for establishing the working conditions, hours of work, bonus and other entitlements of those working in the print media, both journalists and non-journalists.
While the OSH code do expand the definition of ‘working journalists’ to those working in electronic media, a long due demand of the journalists’ union, it takes away the heart of the Working Journalists Act – the legal safeguards – and leaves the working journalists (now, even those working in the electronic media) with a skeleton, it said.
According to a Newslaundry report, Section 3 (2) of the Working Journalists Act – which states that a three-month notice to a journalist and a six-month notice to an editor has to be provided in relation to retrenchment – has been dropped from the codes that were tabled in the Lok Sabha on July 23. Instead, the period of notice for both has been reduced to one month.
This is a textbook example of the Modi Government picking only those provisions from the central labour laws that are beneficial to the employer, IJU said.
What’s more, the government was also trying to bring this code at a time when reports about the protests by retrenched journalists against the media houses (both digital and TV) have surfaced in the media.
Newsclick spoke to Sabina Inderjit, General Secretary of IJU, who expressed her disappointment with the government proposing these Bills that go “directly opposite to the needs of a working journalist.” She said the government had clearly favoured the corporate-owned media houses by not considering the significance of the foundations led down by the press commissions.
Inderjit also viewed the codification of the laws pertaining to the legal protections of a working journalist as a condemnable attempt of the government in equating the “fourth pillar” of the democracy with other industries.
In doing so, this government was basically undermining the social needs of a journalist required in meeting the responsibilities which would force him/her to be in the good books of the corporate barons, resulting in less informed and non-investigative journalism, she added.
IJU is not the only journalists’ union to express discontent over the Labour Bills. Newsclick has earlier reported on the National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) appeal to all political parties and their MPs to step in, alleging that the entire design of the Labour Code was formulated at the “behest of industry”.
Recently, a seminar was also conducted under the banner of the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and the NAJ to oppose the ruling government’s move to get the proposed labour codes enacted by Parliament.
Taking note of the adverse effects of the codification process on all the workers, IJU also extended support to the call by 10 Central Trade Unions for a nation-wide protest on August 2 against the labour codes.