Photo: Following the union meeting the Swarnavahini TV offices were locked. Credit: Indira Nawagamuwa,
March 19, 2019/Media Release.
The Free Media Movement strongly condemns the decision to suspend some of the media employees of Swarnavahini TV.
The Free Media Movement strongly condemns the decision by the administering body of Swarnavahini, EAP Broadcasting Company, to suspend the service of media workers for their involvement in the establishing a media industry trade union. This is a violation of the right to organization of journalists and media workers.
According to the information available to the Free Media Movement, 15 of those journalists and media workers who gathered at 12.00 noon on March 18, 2019 at the Swarnahihani headquarters car park, Galle Road have been suspended with immediate effect by the administration for their participation at the meeting.
The Swarnavahini administration in the suspension notice has mentioned that the decision to suspend them from their services with immediate effect was taken because the daily activities of the company had disrupted due to the said meeting and the workers had not reported to work on time.
Over the last two decades, the media industry has seen a large growth, and as a result, the number of staff and journalists in the industry has increased. However, it is clear that the authorities had not shown any interest in uplifting the working condition of the staffs.
The Free Media Movement will never condone any type of bargaining for any other reason on the ‘rights of journalists and media workers’ including the right to assembly. Therefore, the Free Media Movement calls upon the Swarnavahini administration to reinstate to services the suspend journalists and media workers immediately and to respected their rights.
Meanwhile issuing a statement The International Federation of Journalists says the suspension of the employees is a blatant attack of freedom of association.
Sri Lanka broadcaster Swarnavahini TV fired 15 employees for union activity on March 18. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM) have strongly condemned the layoffs and called on the company to respect workers’ fundamental right to create a trade union.
On Monday, approximately 270 employees of Swarnavahini TV participated in a meeting in the company’s car park, with the aim to form a union to fight for better working conditions. The meeting was scheduled during staff lunch hour, however at the end of the meeting the gates to the office were locked and they were blocked access. They reported the incident to the police, and when they were finally able to access the offices, 15 staff members found letters informing that they had been let go for ‘deliberately disrupting the business and operations’ and for using the company sound system at an unauthorized gathering.
The union was formed to fight for bettering working conditions. Staff reported that in the past 12 months there had been no salary increases, pay was not on time and there was bias when it came to promotions. This is the first case of a private media company unionizing in Sri Lanka.
FMM convenor, Dodawatta said: “The Free Media Movement will never condone any type of bargaining for any other reason on the ‘rights of journalists and media workers’ including the right to assembly. Therefore, the Free Media Movement calls upon the Swarnavahini administration to reinstate to services the suspend journalists and media workers immediately and to respected their rights.”
The IFJ said: “The sacking of 15 employees for unionizing is a blatant attack of freedom of association by Swarnavahini TV management. Journalists and media workers have a right to unionise and actions such as these create a culture of fear and intimidation. Threatening and firing workers for exercising their legitimate right for freedom of association is unacceptable. We demand the immediate reinstatement of employment for the 15 workers and for the management to recognize the new union.”