MEAA: Where forth art thou?

As the industry comes to terms with the Fairfax-Macquarie blooding letting in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, questions are being asked of the union that is supposed to represent broadcasters and journalists.

A number of people are now out looking for work – the victims of the job cuts at 2UE, 4BC, Magic 1278 and Magic 882.  Many would have known the axe was about to fall, given the level of rumour and speculation since the merger was announced.

Frustratingly, very little has been heard publicly from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.  Where was it as management ushered staff into closed-door meetings?  Where has it been since word leaked that the stations in the major capital cities had been decimated?

Look on the MEAA website and there is NO mention of the job losses.  Not a peep.  It was last updated with a post on the death of the great Richie Benaud, but no mention at all of any union effort to fight for the jobs of those who’ve been shown the door.

The ONLY mention of change at Fairfax was the posting of a petition to save jobs at the company’s country NEWSPAPERS. It’s definitely a worthy cause – the loss of media jobs is of huge importance.  But where is to the call to arms on behalf of the radio journalists, broadcasters, production staff et al who’ve been sacrificed by Fairfax-Macquarie?

The deafening silence has confirmed suspicions that the MEAA just doesn’t care about commercial radio. Doesn’t view the journalists in the same light at those working at the ABC or SBS.

Of course, those institutions are highly unionised and commercial radio, by and large, isn’t.  But whose fault is that?

It’s prompted a few journalists to rethink their involvement with the MEAA.  Such is the anger that respected journalists like Geelong’s Rob McLennan have quit.

We re-print his resignation letter with his permission:

“I wish to notify you of my resignation from the MEAA, effective as of the 27th of April 2015, which allows for the requested two weeks’ notice.

The reason for my decision to leave the union after 25 years is the appalling lack of interest shown to commercial radio members. I have argued with the MEAA for years about this issue and while they have sent the occasional rep to speak to me about my grievances, no action has ever been taken. This afternoon I received another ‘Member’s Bulletin’ and was staggered to see that the latest sackings of commercial radio journalists did not even rate a mention. This is the last straw.

It seems to me, and to many other commercial radio journalists, that the MEAA is interested only in members who are employed by newspapers or the ABC. In all of my years as a member I don’t believe I have once seen commercial radio mentioned in any of your publications or bulletins. To the MEAA’s shame, in my 25 years with the union I have had a grand total of one single workplace visit (apart from those prompted by my many complaints about the lack of concern for commercial radio journalists).

I would close by saying thank you for the help over the years but honestly, despite paying more than $10,000 in dues over that time; the union has never done a single thing on my behalf. Nothing. You have sat idly by while newsrooms have closed, journalists have been sacked and pay and conditions were whittled away. One thing you have achieved, however, is the destruction of any faith in unions that generations of commercial radio journalists may have had, and with it their respect and support for the labour movement”.

The MEAA needs to be seen to be doing something. It’s too late for those who’ve already been sacked – that horse has already bolted.  But this is the moment that the union needs to step in and do something to protect those who’ve been left to pick up the pieces.

It’s your move Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

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