CinVen or sin bin?
A TEN TO fifteen per cent cut-back across all sectors is the grim prognosis for the the IPC empire. This follows the buy-out by management with CinVen (sic, formerly the Coal Board Pension Fund venture capital department). The consequences are fewer shifts and less work for freelances and even lay-offs for some who have worked for the company as casuals for years. Martin Cloake, deputy chief sub on the millions-selling cheapie TV listings mag What's On TV, gave this glum news to the NUJ Branch Meeting on 9 March.
The NUJ runs an advice surgery at IPC every second Wednesday in conjunction with comrades in the GPMU. The NUJ also puts out a fortnightly newsletter which is distributed to workers as they enter IPC Towers at King's Reach, Blackfriars.
"The company derecognised the unions some nine years' ago, and it is very difficult to get a picture of what is happening across the whole company," said Martin. "There are 67 titles and in some there are no NUJ members working there at all. The way things are, a lot of people do not know that they can join the union."
Martin explained that following the management take-over, he has been instructed not to book freelance cover for periods of less than five days. This means that staffers who take holidays for two or three days cannot be replaced by freelances loading more work on to those who are left.
"Each department has to make cuts wherever it thinks it can. I've heard that this has meant long-standing casuals being laid-off without notice. Rates vary across the company massively. For example a freelance subbing shift on TV weeklies pays £105 per day but in other titles it is£95. 1500 words for Woman can pay £700 whereas three pages for Vox can be as little as £400."
"What we need to do is improve communication with freelances," Martin said, "so that we can organise them into forcing rates up." Phil Sutcliffe of the Freelance Industrial Council, echoed this: the situation at IPC needed to be addressed urgently. The meeting also heard that IPC was now issuing contracts to casuals which included a clause grabbing their copyright.
The Freelance urges anyone working for IPC to contact the Freelance Office or Martin Cloake on 0181-800 3514 -- whether you have a specific problem or want to organise with fellow freelances.
© 1998 NUJ & contributors