Serbian Provincial TV Journalists Face Temporary Layoffs

Source/Author: BIRN, Maja Zivanovic

NOVI SAD, 28.02.2017. – Over 190 journalists at the regional public broadcaster Radio-Television Vojvodina could be temporarily laid off after the management contracted a private agency to run its employment policy.

Maja Ledjenac, one of the 191 journalists at the TV station in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina, told BIRN on Tuesday that their positions were uncertain because their contracts could not be transferred from RTV to a private consortium on March 1 as previously envisaged.

RTV chose the consortium through a public procurement process, but its winning bid was challenged by another company over suspected irregularities in the process, which means that a state commission now has 20 days to decide whether the procurement bidding should be repeated or not.

In the meantime, the consortium cannot issue contracts for the journalists, who have been left in limbo. All of them are on short-term contracts which expired at the end of February.

“I’m not sure what will happen tomorrow because the contract between RTV and the agency couldn’t be concluded due to the request [for a review of the procurement bidding] that was filed which stopped the process,” said Ledjenac.

RTV announced on its website on February 14 that the winner of the tender was a consortium of bidders which includes the Optimum and Sequester Employment agencies.

BIRN reported in January that Sequester Employment had also been hired by the Serbian state electricity company EPS to read its meters at an unfavorable rate.

RTV journalists’ union representative Darko Sper alleged that the station was using a private company to get around a law restricting the number of people that can be employed in Serbia’s public sector.

He claimed that state broadcaster RTS got permission to hire 375 journalists last Friday, so RTV did not have to use an agency to get around the law.

He also said it was the first time that a public broadcaster had employed staff in this way, describing it as “leasing workers”.

The director of RTV, Miodrag Koprivica, was unavailable for comment.

Koprivica was appointed in July last year, after the ruling Serbian Progressive Party came to power in Vojvodina.

During the campaign and after the elections, many of RTV’s journalists were moved to other jobs or their contracts weren’t renewed.

The situation led to protests organized by the Support RTV movement which now monitors the station’s programming and informs the public about how it favours the ruling parties in Vojvodina.