Contributed by members of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)
Striking Fairfax journalists have returned to work after being out for one week and returned to work together, after short meetings outside their workplaces. In Melbourne they entered the Age building under crossed banners, heads held high.
Their strike was illegal, because existing industrial law only allows industrial action for what is called a protected period. A protected period must be applied for and this takes time. When Fairfax announced that a quarter of them were to lose their jobs, a quick response was needed and the journalists had the courage to walk out and risk big fines.
No action has been taken to punish the illegal act. There is a widespread feeling that the journalists had justice on their side. Support poured in. It came from their union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) all the way. It came from other unions and from journalists all over the place. This includes from those working for rival News Corporation. Thousands of letters from the broad Australian community were sent to the company CEO, Greg Hywood. Many stopped buying Fairfax newspapers. Support came in from the arts community and it came from around the world too.
The strike and turning public opinion was becoming big was putting significant pressure on Fairfax management to shift from its hard line attitude.
It is not over yet. The battle for jobs continues on the inside and the ball is now in Fairfax management’s. The the response will have an impact on what happens next. There is hope that an acceptable offer will be made. If this doesn’t come about, the journalists will have to consider their next step.
Apart from this, the strike is significant. Journalists are not in the habit of walking off the job. That it did happen, shows how strong the feeling over employment security has become. This in turn, shows that journalists are no different from anyone else facing a similar situation.