Journalists’ union trades blows with publishers

The two party's in Sweden's ongoing journalists' conflict were no closer to a resolution on Wednesday. Instead the Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association (Tidningsutgivarna - TU) extended its proposed lockout to include staff at web publications.

As things currently stand, a swift resolution seems increasingly unlikely. The Swedish Journalists’ Union (Svenska Journalistförbundet – SJF) has said it wants to negotiate directly with TU. The employer’s association for its part would prefer to keep the mediators in the loop.

But the National Mediation Office is opting to wait in the wings until it feels its services are required.

Both SJF and TU suggested on Wednesday that the ball had been placed firmly in the other side’s court. Neither party had made contact with the Mediation Office to request a resumption of talks.

“We can’t resume our mediation if neither party wants us to get things going. On SJF’s website they say that they don’t want to meet with us, or at least that they would prefer to reach an agreement directly with the employers.

“We have nothing against that. We are not trying to block the party’s from meeting each other. This is not a matter of prestige for us,” one of the mediators, Rune Larsson, told news agency TT.

SJF has publicly criticized the mediators for not paying enough attention to their demands and for not grasping some central copyright issues that are of crucial importance to the union.

“They can grade us however they like but we’ll soon have been negotiating for six months. I don’t accept the claim that we haven’t understood that particular issue,” said Larsson.

A total of around 100 newspapers had been affected by the dispute by Wednesday.

TU responded to SJF’s calls on Tuesday for a work stoppage with an extension of its own proposed lockout.

TU’s latest lockout warning specifically targeted web publications. Unless the party’s can come to an agreement, affiliated staff at online newspapers will be prohibited from setting foot in their workplaces from 5pm on August 31st.

“Since they won’t be doing any work our view is that they are on strike,” said TU chief negotiator Bosse Svensson, who feels that SJF rather than the individual newspapers should be made to bear the financial burden.

SJF’s industrial action is scheduled to begin on August 30th. The union has said it will forbid journalists from placing new material on the internet, while texts that have already been published may not be changed or edited.