Huffington Post Greece: Behind the glamour lies sheer labour exploitation

Παρασκευή, 28 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Below is the leaflet that was passed out by our Assembly of Media workers at the protest outside the Acropolis Museum where the launch of Huffington Post Greece took place last week, Thursday November 20, in the presence of many high profile guests from the political, media and business circles, as well as Arianna Huffington herself.


Huffington Post: behind the glamour lies sheer labour exploitation

Huffington Post, in collaboration with an old acquaintance of uninsured media workers, 24 Media, launches its Greek website in a festive atmosphere: it seems that they consider it some kind of serious upgrading for domestic journalism, if not a great honor for all who will work under the glamorous name of the international portal. But not all is always so rosy. We wonder, is it true that the people who will work for Huffington Post Greece sign contracts for a five-day workweek when in fact the deal they have made off the record concerns a six-day workweek with no extra pay? Of course, the question in what way and how much the work of editorial director Sophia Papaioannou or contributing editor Pavlos Tsimas will be assessed, remains as of yet unanswered, but for the people working in this new site, the salary is going to be 700 euros at best. Also, it has not been officially known if they are going to be paid what is provided by the law (overtime, night shifts and weekends) and if they are going to be insured as editors by journalists' insurance funds and not as office clerks by IKA. It seems that the people working for 'the pioneering news and entertainment platform that has been awarded a Pulitzer prize', will be paid part of what is owed to them in glitz and glamour.

Unless, of course, not all is so glamorous in the modern offices of every newsroom around the world, where keyboards catch fire in order to catch up with the frantic pace in which a digital piece of news is consumed. In the, not so new anymore, condition of internet news, where the digital social media set the pace of intensified content production, info-workers in the line of production copy and paste nonstop in relentless shifts so as to get more 'clicks' and daily 'unique visits' which will give the website a share of the advertisement pie. Working conditions in domestic sites are not only exhausting and therefore do not allow any kind of check by the editor, not only is the job poorly paid, undeclared and uninsured, but, moreover, it is crucial for the way truth is constructed. In the age of the delimited social media internet, sharing and endless clicking are enough to render what is nonexistent and undocumented, a true fact. Information as commodity, the internet controlled and expensive, although seemingly free, the new digital El Dorado that's being built on the backs of flexible workers ('We believe that digital economy already is-and will be even more so in the immediate future-one of the basic pylons of financial development and business initiative in Greece. We wish to actively support investments towards this direction and Huffington Post Greece undoubtedly is a fine example of an innovative business spirit and showcases in practice the extroversion that our country should have in this new age'1 ') the disenfranchisement of their unions,compose the picture of the media paradigm not just in Greece, which is being inducted in labour Dark Ages -but also anywhere where internet news exists- according to the motto 'choose the lesser of two evils'.

All of the above is not news to us, workers in sites and portals. The vast majority of sites operate as modern time galleys and the people that work for them as 21st century slaves. The above words are not used metaphorically but literally, since we are talking about mostly undeclared, uninsured work in sites, 10hour and 12hour shifts, work during weekends and holidays and extremely low wages. There are also those who are constantly recycled (they make up the rule in sports sites), the 'volunteers' who 'are learning the job', doing their 'traineeship', and ought to be happy if they grab something 'on the side' by some boss, on occasion. These working conditions have been a reality for the people working in electronic publications, even in pre-Memorandum times. With the spread of the electronic media and the onslaught of government austerity measures due to the economic crisis, the situation has only got worse.

Turning the crisis into opportunity for them, means anyone with enough nerve and callousness can start a site, a start-up internet community and 'use the help' of workers who are badly paid and exhausted by the long hours. The bosses take advantage of the Memoranda legislation, the thousands of layoffs and the hundreds of thousands of the newly unemployed to take advantage of us even more, for less than the basics and with our heads down.

The sites of big corporate groups follow the same path, something resulting in the creation of a labour force as cheap and unprotected as possible, with no rights, no insurance, no benefits, without even this formal quality of worker or unemployed- a formless mass of individualized 'reserves' who will occasionally work and occasionally won't, occasionally will survive and occasionally won't, always according to the needs and standards of the bosses.

Against this background, Mass Media workers' unions, if not altogether hostile towards the claims of the people that work in sites, are unable to rise to the occasion and even attempt to protect them from labour barbarism.

We, the 'invisible' internet workers, have the chance for resistance and self-organizing. There are examples where, thanks to the solidarity of colleagues, workers have claimed and managed to obtain their labour rights. The court decision which provides for workers in sites to be hired and paid as editors (see http://katalipsiesiea. blogspot.gr/2012/03/sites.html) and for workers' insurance, and the collective power which has emerged after protests as the result of common struggles, are but a few indications that nothing is lost and that together we can win everything.

We choose the way of collective self-organized struggle, not only as a matter of dignity, but also as struggle for our life and survival against the total war the bosses have declared on us. We fight against the pervasive fatalism, obsequiousness and careerist illusions. We, workers in sites, should re-establish our claims and discuss our workers' interests and prospects against the labour extermination we are experiencing. At the same time, let us self-organize in horizontal structures with our colleagues in every work place, but also throughout the media field and all of us, workers and unemployed with our power as colleagues and our class solidarity, let us fight together to

CONQUER ALL THAT WE DESERVE

  • Editors' wages, with full insurance rights
  • Five-day workweek with two days a week off and extra pay for weekends, holidays and night shifts
  • Full syndicalist rights

Assembly of workers, unemployed and students in the Mass Media

1Joint statement of the financial contributors to the Greek Huffington Post, Marianna Latsi, Petros Pappas, Evfenia Handri and Dimitris Maris.

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