UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS HAVEN’T BEEN PAID IN MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS

3 июля 2014, 15:13
всеукраинский независимый профсоюз
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UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS HAVEN’T BEEN PAID IN MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS
Олег Верник. пікет працівниками телеканалу Jewish News One офісу ТОВ "Апіпа"

Братня британська преса про боротьбу "Захисту праці" за повернення заборгованості працівникам телеканалу Jewish News One!!!

Over four months without salary


Employees of a Ukrainian television news channel were left without any means of support as the result of months of unpaid salaries and incompetent management policy after the internationally broadcast television station went off air in June. Following the channel’s closure, its personnel were not allowed to leave in accordance with the country’s labour law and were also refused salaries owed for the months of February, March, April, and May.


UN1 (Ukraine News One), a pro-Ukrainian television network geared toward an international audience, operated from April until June 2014. This venture replaced JN1 (Jewish News One) – a globally syndicated TV channel, which belonged to Jewish entrepreneurs Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich. 


UN1’s staff consists of more than 80 people, including journalists, translators, sound and video engineers, and other professionals. All signed an employment contract with LLC “APPIA” – the owner of a satellite broadcasting license. Now most of UN1’s employees, having lost stable income, are struggling to make ends meet. Up to the very last day of the channel’s broadcast they have been working on mere enthusiasm, supporting Ukrainian media space during troubled times.


A failed rebranding?


The first problems in the media structure of LLC “APPIA” started late last year. On the eve of 2014, workers were informed about upcoming staffing cuts. The company’s lawyers were going to carry them out in disregard of Ukrainian labour laws. Employees were offered to cancel their employment contracts “by agreement of the parties” because the company “had no money” to spend on due compensation payments. Some employees refused to make such a compromise with the management and demanded compliance with the labour law. Eventually, the company management made concessions and the dismissed employees were allowed to work at the company for two more months.


In spring 2014 workers of Jewish News One received notice that another round of staffing cuts was imminent. They were also told that the channel would be rebranded and that by the end of March JN1 would go off air. In its place, a new channel, UN1, would start broadcasting on the same frequency. Along with rebranding and staffing rearrangements within the company, financial problems become more apparent. The employees of LLC “APPIA” received neither salaries owed for working at JN1, nor any payments under the new project.


Over the course of two months, starting from April 2014, the channel management ignored multiple inquiries about the cause of unpaid wages, debt schedule, and avoided any contact with the staff.



Who is to blame?


In May 2014 members of the independent trade union “Zakhyst pratsi” [Defence of Labour] in LLC “APPIA” started attracting public attention with the help of mass media. Only then, for the first time ever, Vadim Rabinovich (at that time – candidate for Ukrainian presidency, now – leader of the party “Centre”) met with employees of JN1/UN1. At the meeting he stated that he had earlier given away his share of the channel’s assets to Igor Kolomoisky, and thus insisted that all accusations against him were unfounded. Rabinovich also emphasized that Kolomoisky alone was responsible for the current situation within the company as well as for what would become of it.


Shortly afterwards, Peter Dickinson, UN1’s general producer, had a private conversation with Kolomoisky, the results of which he disclosed to his colleagues. He said that Kolomoisky agreed to pay off all the debts to employees of the channel, which he was planning to integrate with his popular 1+1 media ventures. This news brought new hope that UN1’s workers would receive their hard-earned money and would not lose their jobs.


Negotiations with Kolomoisky were confirmed by Valentyna Mala, who held the title of general director of JN1. Her official position within UN1 remains a mystery, although it is clear that she played a key role in the course of the talks concerning the channel’s future. At the same time, Mala also directed a media company called Opera Production, based in Paris, which had contracted with JN1/UN1. Dozens of freelance journalists around the world worked with JN1 through this company. During one of the meetings, Mala expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of the trade union and promised to find those responsible for “making such a fuss.” Mala insisted that the workers were “not to go into hysterics”, but should rather “sit tight” and “be more loyal to the management.” She also promised to “settle the troubling issue.”


In May 2014 the workers were informed that the director of LLC “APPIA,” Andrey Shevchenko, resigned from his position. It should be noted that over the whole lifetime of the project no one from the staff has ever seen him. Consequently, according to the company’s lawyers, there was no actual executive at that time because a new one was never appointed. From that moment they were also denied scheduled vacations and employment termination.


So far UN1’s employees still cannot resign, even voluntarily. According to the lawyers, there is no one who can sign their letters of resignation.


UN1 ceased broadcasting on June 11, 2014. Mala called an urgent meeting via Skype, during which she informed staff that the channel was shutting down. Workers received no document notifying them about the upcoming project closure in advance. Later that same day, all equipment was taken away from the office and cabinets were sealed up.


What was done?


Independent trade union “Zakhyst pratsi” in LLC “APPIA” has already appealed to the General Prosecutor of Ukraine, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Inspection of Ukraine in labor affairs concerning illegally unpaid wages and outrageous violations of rights of UN1’s employees.


The picket of LLC “APPIA” that took place on the June 23 was intended to attract public and media attention to the problem.


The employees of Ukraine News One hope that the responsible executives of the channel will hear their demands and fulfil legal obligations.


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РАЗДЕЛ: События в Украине
ТЕГИ: Коломойский,Рабинович
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