Precarious work and (power) abuse
No ARD station relies as much on freelance work as Deutsche Welle. Freelance work replaces permanent positions with protection against dismissal. For many employees, this means that as "permanent freelancers" they are dependent on DW on the one hand, and on the other hand are permanently under the Damoclean sword of cuts or even termination.
Why do broadcasters have leeway under labor law that other employers are (rightly) denied? The reason lies in the constitutionally protected freedom of broadcasting. It grants broadcasters a "need for variety" in the employment of staff, especially in the journalistic, programming area.
It´s ok, as long as it works for both sides. But what about conflicts, especially with the management? In individual cases, it is difficult to judge where the "need for change" ends and where dislike begins, in other words, where criticism can be reinterpreted as disobedience and where power imbalances turn into abuse of power. Given that good journalism also depends on the critical impulse of individuals, this is not only an issue of labor law, but also of media policy.
The situation is even more problematic for freelancers whose work opportunities are limited to a station like Deutsche Welle or whose residence permit is even tied to their employment. This is not unusual for a foreign broadcaster with over 30 languages.
It is against this background that cases of abuse of power and sexual abuse at DW, which were the subject of press coverage in the summer of 2019, should be seen.
Shortly before that, corresponding cases had become known at other stations, such as WDR. In contrast to DW, the director of WDR apologized publicly and commissioned Dr. Monika Wulf-Mathies to investigate the incidents. ver.di had also demanded such an investigation for DW. It never took place. We are convinced that the "examination" of an individual editorial department by members of the Broadcasting Board undertaken in the summer of 2020 is no substitute for an independent investigation.
(following articles in German)
The following flyer of ver.di is also in English:
After all, DW has had lawyers at both locations for some time now, whom employees can contact in the event of sexual abuse. The contact details are listed on the DW intranet under the heading "#MeToo / Zero Tolerance". In addition, those affected can turn to the THEMIS Confidential Office, which offers legal and psychological help and advice to all ARD employees (i.e. including DW).
A process of change also began in the summer of 2018 as part of the #MeToo campaign. In the meantime, the General Staff Council and Deutsche Welle have reached two service agreements that provide for binding processes in cases of abuse of power, bullying and sexual abuse, among other things.
The position of ver.di is clear. We stand behind the employees. All the more so in the case of precarious employment - whether freelance or temporary. That is why we demand that binding rules be observed and improved. Shop stewards from ver.di do not play the judge. We reject one-sided measures and the attribution of blame to individual employees.