Trade union leader Jeremy Dear has hit out at “anti-union” laws, which he says result in journalists being underpaid and exploited.
The general secretary of the National Union of Journalists also said that legislation enables companies to compromise their workers’ health and well-being.
He told the Trades Union Congress in Brighton that the problem was down to “outdated and unfair anti-union laws”.
He said current legislation denied many journalists the right to union recognition, allowed opt-outs of the laws governing working hours and placed unwarranted restrictions on journalists’ rights to take part in industrial action.
This in turn had created a low wage, long-hours economy where stress and bullying were rife and an industry where tax credits must subsidise the poverty wages paid by multinationals, he claimed.
He said: “Many media companies around the country are able to pay journalists insulting wages – as low as £12,000 in some places because unions are tied up in a legal quagmire, denied the rights enshrined in international laws and threatened by sequestrations, fines and injunctions whenever industrial action is planned.”
He also highlighted the situation of many journalists who work on contracts and are laid off and re-employed later, which he said robbed them of protection against unfair dismissal and other employment rights.
He added: “These laws and the lack of protection resulting from them are creating conditions that are a disgrace to a modern democracy in the 20th century and shame our profession.
“They are leaving journalists vulnerable to unscrupulous employers.
“Journalists are regarded as a group well able to speak and stand up for themselves. If they are drowning in anti-union red tape, what does it say about the condition of the rest of the workforce?
“It is high time Tony Blair kept his promises and put the workers of this country on a fair footing in the struggle for a decent wage in return for a decent job done.”