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Audit authority’s reports on outsourcing practices of public broadcaster

The Supreme Audit Office has published a report on external production practices at Telewizja Polska S.A. (TVP), Polish public TV broadcaster. The audit covered also TVP’s restructuring plan, based on the so-called workforce outsourcing.

The report has revealed that the adopted employment restructuring plan, which provided for the transfer of a part of the company staff to an external entity, poses the risk of a legal action being taken by employees after the expiry of a twelve month guaranteed employment period. The SAO has identified another risk, namely the adoption of such a model of employment under which a large number of the staff (especially journalists working on news programmes), whose work is crucial for the broadcaster’s fulfilment of its public mandate, is employed by external entities that are not news outlets within the meaning of the media law.

The HFHR has been observing the litigation brought by the Labour Union of Creative and Technical Staff of Polish Media “Wizja” against Telewizja Polska S.A. and LeasingTeam Sp. z o.o. The Labour Union sought a judicial order nullifying a contract for journalistic services and a transfer of the public broadcaster’s employees and associates that was concluded between Telewizja Polska and LeasingTeam Sp. z o.o., a temporary employment agency. The so-called “outsourcing contract” covered 411 employees of Telewizja Polska, and was worth about PLN 167 million.

“A crucial element of this case is how the contract between TVP and LeasingTeam Sp. z o.o. affected the work of journalists that involved the exercise of freedom of speech”, noted Dorota Głowacka, HFHR’s lawyer. “The current situation of former TVP journalists in light of guarantees under the media law is also a significant factor. Formally, the journalists have become subordinates of an entity that is not a broadcaster. In consequence, it is unclear if the journalists can rely on the guarantees and privileges under the Media Law Act, such as reporter’s privilege or guarantees of journalistic independence, and whether they are obliged to discharge duties established under the Act, such as the requirement to exercise a high degree of care”, Ms Głowacka adds.

Originally, the Regional Court in Warsaw that hears the case, ruled that the maximum filing fee, payable for the claimant’s statement of claim, will be PLN 100,000. In its letter sent to the Regional Court in Warsaw, the HFHR noted that such extensive costs of the case, coupled with the financial situation of the Labour Union, which is a non-business entity that had no influence whatsoever on the value of the contract between TVP and LeasingTeam Sp. z o.o., might lead to the violations of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees access to a court. The Court admitted the Union’s complaint and set the new filing fee of PLN 25,000.

The court will now consider the Union’s motion for an interim injunction.

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