Strike: noun. 1. A refusal to work organized by a body of employees as a form of protest, typically in an attempt to gain a concession or concessions from their employer – Oxford Dictionary.
And that is what employees of the Buenos Aires Herald are doing today. Not just the journalists (and we are also translators, editors, graphic designers and picture editors), but the administrative staff too.
In Argentina, employees collectively bargain for a pay rise – that’s to say, we all sit down together to decide what to ask management for and then present that proposal. Management invariably rejects it and so there’s plenty of to-ing, fro-ing, discussion and tactical psychology going on.
Truth be known, a lot of it goes over my head – it can be complex, M’Lord – but at the end of the day a pay rise affects me and my colleagues which is obviously the reason I take a personal interest. Why wouldn’t I? For more than two years (July 2008 to October 2010) I earned 1,750 pesos. (The pound sterling is currently at 6.5 pesos, you do the maths…). Apparently, the minimum wage for an employee in a toothpick-making factory is 3,200 pesos. (Strong union, the toothpick-making one.)
In the UK I was always a paid-up member of the NUJ – journalism can be a precarious industry to work in, dangerous even, depending on the route you take. God, I’ve even been threatened with legal action by the Big Yellow Bus company in Buenos Aires for daring to mention the Roofless Bus Company’s name in the same breath…
Newspapers mushroom, but equally they get closed down with no explanation. I know plenty of journalists in the UK who have been made redundant overnight with little, or better still, no explanation.
The Herald counts on UTPBA for its support – a large press workers’ union with a small but supportive staff which has always backed the current 20 Herald journalists and admin staff who are asking for a respectable 18% pay rise but were originally offered 3%, then 3% in various formats (1% 1% 1% then 0.5% 2% 0.5% – you get the idea). We’re asking for 18% because inflation in Argentina is estimated by private consultancies at between 25% and 35% annually. Official inflation figures were reported at 10.9% in 2010, but no one has trusted INDEC‘s statistics since 2007 (another story).
Anyway. I start work in an hour and 50 minutes. I’ve never been on strike before although we got close to it at the Herald a while back. And this blog by no means covers the reasons why I’m striking today. It’s not just about annual collective wage bargaining but also about working conditions. I simply wanted to express the fact that my colleagues – friends – and I deserve what President Cristina Fernández de Krichner frequently refers to as a “dignified” salary, “dignified” working conditions and take this opportunity to remind our employer AmFin to comply with the Journalist’s Statute.