Australian Financial Review columnist Joe Aston has hit back after being called a “scab” on social media by describing the strike organised by Fairfax Media colleagues as “unlawful” and “wildcat”.
Hundreds of Fairfax journalists walked out on Thursday after the company announced 120 more job losses across The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. This morning, staff returned to the newsrooms.
After colleagues walked out on Thursday in the unprotected industrial action, Rear Window columnist Joe Aston tweeted: “Grateful for Fairfax Media colleagues remaining behind (=abiding the law) to produce the news for our readers. We’re not all on strike.”
That was picked up by Guardian Australia columnist Van Badham, who retweeted it with the comment: “If you don’t EVER want to be like this guy join a union.”
Others then jumped on Badham’s tweet, using it to attack Aston as a “scab” – someone who breaks a strike action –
People angry with Aston’s first tweet described him as a “scab”
Over the weekend the papers were produced by a skeleton staff with senior editors writing several stories and a lot of contributed copy from news wire services.
In his column today, Aston took issue with the attack, writing: “I have been called many things, brutally derisive and mostly true, but one thing is for certain: I am not a scab.
“I am not a private contractor. I haven’t been flown in from Dubai by Chris Corrigan. I am turning up to work for my employer, as per my contractual obligations, and I am declining to participate in an unlawful strike organised by a union I’m not a member of.”
He then outlined the process set down under law for how the journalist’s union, the MEAA, should have acted to take action, before turning on Badham’s employers, The Guardian, which called on Fairfax to reverse the cuts decision.
He wrote: “Clearly no pangs of conscience there from journalists who compete for Fairfax readers and advertisers, are subsidised by a foreign Trust, and the very same week the aforementioned Trust announced it is sacking 250 people in London but ring-fencing its Aussie staff from cuts. Yep, these scribes are really on the Les Misérables barricades.”
Aston also criticised journalists in Fairfax’s Canberra Press Gallery for walking out “weeks before they cover – independent, always – a federal election to be fought on the issue of union impropriety and thuggery”.
Aston’s column also won the backing of News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt, who wrote on his blog today, describing Aston’s column as making: “A most excellent point”.