Guardian talks get
under way

Negotiations have started with the Guardian and Observer on minimum freelance rates, following the milestone agreement on copyright reported in the previous issue of the Freelance.

The last formal freelance agreement was negotiated in 1992 with a features rate of £149 per 1,000 words and similarly depressing minima for other standard items.

There is clearly a lot of catching up to do. The Guardian stated recently that its current minimum rate for 1000 words is £179 -- but through the Guardian freelance network we have obtained up-to-date evidence of payments as low as £150 pro rata i.e. no higher than seven years ago.

Freelance rates are supposed to have increased in line with staff pay deals, but according to NUJ mathematicians such calculations would produce a figure of £190 per 1000 words even before allowing for staff bonus payments and profit-sharing arrangements.

An NUJ negotiating team met Guardian management on 7 April -- our representatives were freelance organiser Bernie Corbett, Freelance Industrial Council chair Phil Sutcliffe and Guardian chapel freelance rep Steve Bell.

They presented a claim in line with the new copyright agreement for £200 per 1000 words as a minimum, plus an additional element -- so far unspecified -- to cover additional uses agreed by journalists using the standard licence -- mainly database and web use and print syndication.

Rates for other types of contribution would mostly rise by the same percentage, except for cases (such as cartoons and illustrations) where the figures are now seriously out of line with current industry levels -- these will need to be renegotiated separately.

The Guardian managers said they would reply to the NUJ presentation within three weeks and proposed a complicated formula to obtain a figure for the new standard licence.

Another negotiating meeting is expected in early May.

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