Media workers marched from the Obelisco to the Labour Ministry yesterday in protest of working conditions, insufficient wages, and job insecurity in the sector. Anne-Laure White spoke to the demonstrators about their grievances. Photos by Kyle Ludowitz.
Sulphurous smoke and banging drums paved the way down Av. Corrientes for hundreds of media sector workers on Wednesday. In an uncommon intermingling of work and activism, protesting photographers jumped in front of the crowd to snap a photo, while journalists recording interviews came back to march among colleagues.
A day after the National Day for Journalists, media employees (and those recently unemployed) from across Argentina gathered in Buenos Aires to protest labour conditions, insufficient wages, and job insecurity in the sector. The march was organised by SiPreBa, a new labour union created last year in response to mounting frustrations with the decades-old Press Union of Buenos Aires. According to SiPreBa organiser Esteban Schoj, many of the former union’s leaders were in positions of power in media companies and irresponsive to the needs of workers. “To be a sincere worker’s union, we need to be made up of workers and fight for our rights collectively,” he said.
People came from media companies, newspapers, radio stations, and their respective unions to join SiPreBa’s march from the Obelisco to the Labour Ministry. Concerns for the media sector are widespread and transverse editorial lines; SiPreBa members range from such opposing publications as Página 12 to Clarín, with all deeply concerned over recent trends in the industry.
The Centre of Political Economics of Argentina (Centro de Economía Política Argentina) reported that layoffs and suspensions increased by approximately 9% in the month of April, and union leader Schoj claims many of these layoffs have been in the media sector. According to him, an average of six press workers have been laid off each day since January.
Four protestors shared their thoughts and opinions with The Indy.
Alejandro Brittos works for Radio Nacional in the province of Santa Fe. He also came to Buenos Aires specifically for this action. “We are at this march because we are suffering from the layoffs, which we are seeing in many sectors,” said Brittos, “We are also here because of salary issues. This economic situation affects our journalistic work. It inhibits the possibility for including a greater diversity of voices in the media.
“For the first time, 35 press labor unions from all across the country are gathering to protest. Ultimately, we are asking for better working conditions – we have many workers in precarious jobs, workers that are not registered, whose rights such as retirement, holidays, and salaries that are sufficient for living are not recognised. This is a major issue, precarious working conditions. The other is the amount of layoffs; a huge number of colleagues have lost their jobs in 2016 under President Mauricio Macri. Something like 2,000 workers.”
Valeria Gonzalez works for Radio of the Press Association in Tucumán. She came to the march all the way from the north-western province: “We are protesting the layoffs – there are a huge amount of layoffs in the media sector. The current economic situation that is affecting the entire country hurts workers directly. We must keep in mind that the communication sector is in an incredibly precarious position. We need to receive a salary that actually corresponds to the work we are doing.”
Esteban Schoj works for Tiempo Argentino, a newspaper that was recently taken over by its journalists after their media company stopped paying wages properly. Schoj says that with the “insufficient salaries, the workers created a cooperative called ‘Por Mas Tiempo’ [For More Tiempo] in which we continued publishing the magazine according to our own vision and management.”
Schoj, now a member of the SiPreBa union, came out to protest because of the increase in layoffs. “We are seeing a climate of high tension and conflict due to the corrupt politics of our government and the unscrupulousness of the businesses that dominate the communication sector. We must continue to fight against layoffs, to ensure that workers in this sector can return to their jobs and that all sectors, not only media, can trust the security of their employment.”
“We want to do what the former press union of Buenos Aires did not. For 35 years, people in positions of power in the media industry had too important a role in our union. With SiPreBa, we want to build a union that is actually composed of and representative of the needs of media workers, a type of union that has been absent for far too long.”
Diego Astorga is a delegate from the Diario de Mendoza. He came to Buenos Aires to “vindicate our rights as press workers, which are constantly vulnerable to media companies. This is the case in the entire country, not only my province – they don’t respect working conditions or holidays, both rights supposedly ensured by law.”
Astorga hopes that: “with this march, the labour minister will give us more possibilities, that they will regulate the treatment of workers by the larger companies, and that we can unite on a national level because we are together in the face of this situation.”