50TH ANNUAL MEETING
SEPTEMBER 6, 2009
SUMMARY REPORT OF THE ANNUAL REPORT
This year's annual meeting of the Union of Cyprus Journalists marks 50 years of existence, action and service by the Union.
The founding meeting of the Union was held in 1959 and the Union of Cyprus Journalists was officially registered as a trade union in 1960. This important anniversary will be honoured by a series of events which have been already decided upon by the Executive Council.
The main event will be a commemorative gathering at the end of October or early November this year, at which the work of the Union over the past 50 years will be presented.
State and political leaders and representatives of international journalists organizations will be invited to attend and address the meeting.
Honorary plaques will be presented to founding members and journalists with over 40 years in the profession.
An exhibition of photographs will also be inaugurated.
In the context of commemorative celebrations the following events will be held:
-Inauguration of the Library of the Union.
-Collective exhibition of writings, artistic and other creative work by journalists.
-Presentation of prizes in four important sectors of journalism-investigative reporting, chronicle, cartoon and photography.
-Public discussions on important current issues and problems facing journalists.
-A music gala with the participation of known artists from Cyprus and Greece.
Closing 50 years of action is an opportunity to underscore problems, deficiencies and duties in front of journalists and to intensify efforts and action by all -both by the leadership of the Union and by its members- for a more effective promotion of their solution. For this reason we expect that all members will actively participate in the above mentioned commemorative activities.
The Union remains steadfast in its effort to contribute to the termination of the occupation of 37 per cent of the area of Cyprus by Turkish troops, to the re-unification of the island and to the establishment a free, democratic, secure and prospering common motherland for all its lawful citizens, with all human rights fully guaranteed and secured.
To this effect, the Union's voice is raised both locally and abroad at every opportunity.
Looking back over the past year the Union notes that it has obviously been a difficult period regarding the professional status and the work of journalists. By invoking the economic crisis both locally and internationally, the employers have brought pressure to bear on existing rights and benefits achieved by journalists over the past years. There have been specific instances in which publishers took unilateral action, such as curtailing or freezing benefits.
In other cases there have been consultations between the Union and employers for provisional arrangements aiming at overcoming actual economic problems and difficulties and at the same time preserving the work and the main benefits of editorial staff provided for by collective agreements.
Close co-operation between all unions involved and among journalists is needed to face even more difficult days ahead in the employment sector.
Beyond the above mentioned problems, a most serious one is the omission by some newspapers to fulfill their obligations under the collective agreements, specifically for contributing to the Provident Fund and Health Scheme. This omission must be met in a most decisive manner by journalists directly affected, with the support of all other union members, because it constitutes a serious attack on vested interests under collective agreements.
The Union has come out with the position that the State -as is the practice in several European countries- has an obligation to offer to Mass Communication Media all necessary and logical economic support, either in the form of subsidies or in the form of publishing extra state advertisements or giving tax benefits to enable them to come out of the present crisis.
In the other important Media sector, that of private radio and television stations, labour conditions continue to be unchanged and at the expense of journalists.
With the exception of PLUS TV and Astra and Channel6 radio stations, which have accepted and implemented important provisions of the collective agreement, all other private electronic media insist on their refusal to negotiate with the UCJ the terms of employment of journalists, contrary to express provisions of the Private Radio and Television stations law.
For this unacceptable situation the Union holds responsible not only the Radio and Television Authority, which failed to enforce the Law, but other state institutions as well, such as the Ministry of Labour and the House of Representatives, which did not take action to bring to an end this unacceptable violation of both legal and labour ethics.
The solution to this problem lies with the journalists, who should stop accepting this situation and react by standing up for their rights, having in mind that they will have the full and active support of the Union.
The Executive Council has to undertake new initiatives on this issue.
As regards the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, the Union of Cyprus Journalists has undertaken a series of initiatives aimed at ending discrimination against a considerable number of journalists who are employed under the status of "regular contributors" or district correspondents.
It has also submitted to other trade unions of CYBC staff a memorandum on the problems facing employees, suggesting a coordinated action on the filling of vacant positions and ending discrimination against employees under an "indefinite duration" status, district correspondents and newly appointed journalists.
Should there be a refusal on behalf of the CYBC Board to address these inequalities we have to consider how we proceed further.
The Union should also take up the case of journalists working under very discriminatory conditions in a number of local media.
Finally, another important sector which the Union dealt with is that of the Cyprus News Agency. The Union has 18 members working with the Agency. We have asked for their unimpeded professional advancement and an end to the discrimination as regards employment conditions of district correspondents.
There are serious deficiencies in the organisational sector of the Union. Local committees are not very active and the aim of setting up separate branch committees for the written press and radio and television stations has not advanced.
Nevertheless, local branches have been set up in Limassol and Larnaca, but there was no interest shown for the setting up of a similar local branch in Paphos.
A decision to set up a committee on organization issues has not been materialized.
The Union's registered members total 538 -346 male and 190 male- but a considerable number of them either do not pay their contributions or do not pay on a regular basis.
Two important institutions operating under the Union are the Provident Fund and the Welfare Fund. Under the Health Scheme of the Provident Fund, a total of 159.785 euros was paid out to members for the period of July, 2008-June 2009.
The refusal of employers to contribute to the two Funds for all of our members and their failure to contribute promptly continues to be a serious issue.
The auxiliary pension paid to low-income pensioners has been increased so that beneficiaries will have a minimum monthly income of 650 euros. A total of over 36.000 euros was paid during last year to auxiliary pension beneficiaries and almost 25.000 euros was paid in the form of assistance to needy members or the families of deceased journalists.
An important activity of the Union is the running of the Journalists' House and the Journalists' Village. The Journalists' House has been established as a conference centre and is used regularly by both governmental and private institutions.
The work on setting up a Library is nearing its end and the Library will soon be inaugurated.
The Journalists' Village at Pervolia is a convenient place for vacations, mainly in the summer, for both Union members and their families and other people. The issue subsidy by the Ministry of Labour, in line with subsidies paid to similar establishments of other trade unions, is still unresolved.
Other uses for the Village should be considered, such as making more use of the conference hall, extending operation beyond the summer season, such as "camping" children of Union members during school recess and offering recreation to retired journalists.
During the period under review, the Union set out once more its suggestions to all competent parliamentary committees on the important issues of bringing up to date the outdated Libel Law and the abrogation of provisions of the Electoral Law, which restrict the freedom of the Press and the right to informing. The Union has hailed a series of important court decisions in libel cases, which set a liberal case law precedent.
The Union has not detected much interest either by other Mass Media institutions or the Government and the Parliaments for its proposals on safeguarding and upgrading journalism. It will, nevertheless, insist in its efforts for the vocational training of journalists before being employed and during their working life
The Executive Council has continued its economic policy of increasing income and restricting expenditure and this is reflected in the auditor's report. A serious issue is that of finding sources of income, in view of the fact that after several years the Unions' lottery was discontinued this year under pressure by other, more lucrative lotteries.
RELATIONS WITH TURKISH CYPRIOT JOURNALISTS:
Contacts have continued with the Turkish Cypriot Press workers trade union, Basin-Sen in an effort to find practical ways of cooperation, mainly in the field of free movement of journalists by presenting an International Federation of Journalists press card and on the issue of organizing seminars and events on professional matters.
A meeting between UCJ and Basin-Sen was held in Rome under the auspices of the European Federation of Journalists and a communique was issued, which, however, was not considered by the Union's Executive Council to be satisfactory. The Council submitted to EUJ an explanatory memorandum to be attached to the communique as an integral part.
A series of meetings with Basis-Sen on the issue did not promote the aim of better cooperation, because the side of Basin-Sen insisted on positions that would amount to accepting fait-accompli of the occupation and partition of Cyprus, the presence of settlers and the arrival of journalists in the occupied part of Cyprus through Turkey in violation of commitments undertaken by Cyprus vis-a-vis the European Union.
The position of the Union is to continue its efforts for good relations and cooperation with Basin-Sen, provided that both parties will behave and act as citizens of a single country and common homeland and not two separate states. This is also our position regarding the status of Basin-Sen in the European Federation of Journalists.
At the EFJ annual meeting in Barna, Bulgaria, the Union objected to and averted a resolution submitted by Basin-Sen which made a direct mention to the so-called state in the occupied part of Cyprus. An invitation by Basin-Sen to hold the next annual meeting in the occupied part of Cyprus was also not accepted.
The Union maintained its close ties cooperation with both the European Federation of Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists. One of the Executive Council's members, Androula Georgiadou, has been elected to the Executive Council of EFJ and actively participates in its activities.
The Union also maintains its close ties with the Union of Journalists of the Daily Athens Newspapers (ESIEA), both on professional and social issues and the annual events in support of the occupied schools of Rizokarpaso and of the Pharmakas Elementary School are regularly held.
The year under review marked the passing away of five of our members, Costas Deliyiannis, a member of the Executive Council, Ntinos Constantinides, a veteran athletic events journalists and former chairman of the Union of Cyprus Athletic journalists, Georgios Zinon-Stasinos, a distinguished cartoonist, Lonias Efthyvoulou, a veteran journalists and painter and Andreas Hadjimiltis, a veteran Limassol journalist.
Mention is also made of the passing away of Kypros Phsillides, the former Director of the Public Information Office.