Action for fair and equal pay in Norway, UK and Ireland

Norwegian journalists working for the country’s national broadcaster NRK have launched strike action to back their claim for an overall pay rise and equal treatment for temporary and freelance contributors.

The Norwegian Union of Journalists, which has 1,700 members in Norwegian Public Service Broadcasting, said negotiations and mediation have failed to produce a satisfactory collective agreement.

The union highlighted four main grievances:

  • NRK journalists earn 110,000 NOK (€12.000) less than their colleagues in other big media organisations.
  • Journalists with precarious contracts earn less than permanent NRK staff. The union is demanding equal conditions for temporaries and freelancers, and opposing moves to increase journalists’ workload and cut their leisure time.
  • NRK has saved 500 million NOK (€550,000) over the last five years because journalists work faster and more efficiently. In the last three annual bargaining rounds NRK has cut back expenditure, while the journalists have accepted a revised pension scheme that saves the company 140 million NOK (€15 million) a year.
  • NRK wants to replace around 100 journalists every year. The union is saying that the company must take responsibility for mid-career retraining and reskilling for the future.

NRK can afford to give its journalists a reasonable pay rise. The union action is backed by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) representing journalists’ union across Europe. “We fully support our colleagues’ rights to demand equal pay and equal work,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård.

Meanwhile, delegates at the biennial meeting of the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland agreed to launch a new ‘Journalists Need a Pay Rise’ campaign to secure better conditions for the low-paid. They declared that “journalists, like other workers, have effectively suffered pay cuts for too long. The time is right for a pay campaign across the whole union to launch initiatives – including calling for a minimum of the living wage for all freelance members – an activity that would act as a union drive and help build organisation in all sectors.” It will also target the persistent gender pay gap. Differences between the pay of male and female journalists doing the same job in high-profile organisations including the BBC caused outrage when they came to light under new legal obligations on pay transparency.