Freelancim ohne frontières
FACED with trans-national publishers and broadcasters, European journalists' unions co-ordinate through the European Federation of Journalists. Its Freelance Experts' Group ("FREG") is concerned with work and social conditions. freelance Organiser John Toner is our representative.
Conditions depend on widely varying national laws. The unions in Greece have only recently been allowed to represent freelances. In Austria, journalists recently discovered that the umbrella union they were in has spent 35 years trying to get them out; 95 per cent voted to change umbrellas.
Swiss law does't recognise the term "freelance", so our colleagues there pay the equivalent of full employee's National Insurance but are self-employed when the time comes to claim benefits. That was the case until recently in Germany, but the position there has now improved.
The German Federal government is debating a new law on authors' rights - so the two journalists' unions are battling a heavy-duty lobbying campaign by the publishers. And there, as in most countries, publishers are pressing freelances to waive fees for re-use of their work. Some papers have relented, where freelances have challenged them, and are now paying both staff and freelances to put work on the web.
The unions in both Sweden and Finland are preparing lawsuits over unauthorised re-use.
Since authors' rights are now a major issue for freelances everywhere in Europe, FREG works closely with the EFJ Authors' Rights Expert Group, on which Mike Holderness is the NUJ representative.