A conference for freelance members:

Taking freelances to the heart of the NUJ

TAKING freelances to the heart of the NUJ is the title -- and the aim - of a conference, in Dublin on 29-30 January 1999. Jointly organised by London Freelance Branch, Dublin Freelance Branch and the Freelance Industrial Council, it is open to freelances across the union.

Now is a critical time for freelances. Sooner or later freelances working in every publishing and broadcasting house in the UK are going to have to stand together or lose the chance of owning their work in the future. In Ireland the outcome of copyright legislation still hangs in the balance. As freelances, we need to share experience of how to organise and to take forward the campaign for copyright, at workplace, national and European level.

But copyright is not the only issue. With new trade union legislation coming up in the UK and the first moves towards derecognition in Ireland, it is vital that we plan our future: as working journalists, as members of the union and as freelances working alongside staff. If we are not clear about what we need, in the workplace and in the union, our voices are likely to be ignored.

With this agenda, it is vital that freelances come from every geographical area and sector of the union, with a variety of work and trade union experience, to make the conference a success. We are planning for a maximum of 60 people for budgetary reasons and will have to select people, if the conference is oversubscribed. So our apologies in advance if we have to turn people away. But if the conference is successful, we will be pushing to make it a regular event, so there should be a chance next time round.

We are inviting every branch to nominate a freelance to come and are issuing a general invitation to individuals, particularly those who are not in functioning branches, to apply. If we have to select, we will seek to make the group as representative of the union membership as possible (age, gender, ethnic origin, work experience, NUJ experience ie we want non-activists as well as activists) and we will be looking for people who have something to contribute to the overall project.

The conference will not be taking decisions for the union -- anything it decides will have to be taken through branches or industrial or national councils in the normal way. But it will not just be a talking shop. Much of the time will be spent in workshops, and they will have the brief to come up with concrete proposals for action. The conference itself will decide how to take these forward. We will be publishing a conference report immediately afterwards, and a final report after about six months, so we can assess how much has been achieved.

Individuals will be expected to pay a £10 registration fee and branches will be asked to meet the travel costs of their members attending. Accommodation and food will be met from conference funds - which have been raised from the freelance sector, and not hard pressed central budgets. So it you think it could be you, get your branch to nominate you.

Nov/Dec 1998
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