European Federation of Journalists

Portugal: Portuguese Union of Journalists calls for nation-wide strike on 14 March

For the first time in over 40 years, the Portuguese Union of Journalists (SinJor) will be calling a 24-hour strike, joined by other journalists’ unions and associations, on 14 March to demand better working conditions. The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) stand in solidarity with the striking journalists and media workers.

The strike was decided unanimously at the last congress on 18 January 2024. SinJor is demanding general pay rises, stable employment contracts, decent overtime pay and compensation for the hardships of working nights and weekends, and additional payments for exceptions to working hours. The union is also calling for public support by the state to assume its responsibilities and support journalism as a public good, as enshrined in the Constitution.

“It’s not acceptable to sack those with decades of editorial experience because they earn a little more than the average. It is not acceptable for photojournalists to pay for their own equipment. It is not acceptable to condemn image reporters and image editors to an eternity of bogus self-employment. It is not acceptable for trainees to receive 150 euros a month. It is not acceptable for freelancers to receive 20 euros per article. It is not acceptable that half of the country’s local authority areas have no local newspaper,” said the Portuguese Union of Journalists.

According to the Media Trust.Lab 2022 study on ‘news deserts’, more than half of the municipalities  in Portugal can be said to be in a “news desert situation” or on the way to becoming one. This is worrying, especially as it is accompanied by a reduction in overall investment in public advertising of six million euros by 2022.

Fragile media business models greatly affect journalists and media workers’ working conditions and basic labour rights. The crisis at Global Media Group (GMG), one of the largest media organisations in Portugal, is an example. Recently, GMG announced a restructuring plan and paid wages late in December 2023 following the sale of shares to an opaque investment fund based in the Bahamas, a tax-haven. Since the one-hour strike by journalists in January 2024 to demand immediate payment of unpaid salaries and Christmas bonuses, the management of GMG announced the collective dismissal of 20 workers, including 10 journalists from Diário de Notícias, as well as the sale of part of the group (Jornal de Notícias, TSF radio, O Jogo) to Notícias Ilimitadas. While salaries have been regularised, the payment of the Christmas bonus is still pending and the union has started a legal action.

The IFJ-EFJ said: “We back the union’s demands to put an end to precarious employment in journalism in Portugal. We need to understand that poor working conditions and low pay affect the quality of information. We hope that the general strike will raise public awareness of the need to treat journalism as a public good.”