Freelances’ turn at the table

THE NUJ's Annual Delegate Meeting opened with news that staff at Newsquest papers in York and Leeds had voted 82 per cent in favour of strike action - see here.

And as Tim Dawson, reporting back as chair of Freelance Industrial Council, said, some workplaces are now in their third or fourth round of pay negotiations after union re-recognition under the Fairness at Work Act. Chapels are getting experienced and freelances are becoming more involved in negotiations. But there's a way to go: General Secretary Jeremy Dear reminded the conference in Liverpool at the end of March of the dreadful rates for staff and freelances alike at almost all local papers.

Photo © <B>Pete Jenkins</B>

Freelance Industrial Council chair Tim Dawson addresses the Freelance Sector Conference with the new Freelance Fees Guide in the background

"It's difficult to get over to staff colleagues in a new relationship the importance of including freelances," Tim noted. He hoped that "in two or three years we will have more freelance agreements". He urged negotiators to "make sure freelances are included in negotiations, make sure that its not the freelance part of the claim that gets pushed aside as horse trading begins".

Scottish organiser Paul Holleran reported that there were new freelance agreements at Newsquest in Scotland and Scotsman Publishing, with progress on rates at the Scottish broadsheet publications. And a better freelance rate has been negotiated at Trinity Mirror in Coventry. But freelances with other publications report that management has put up the rates only to axe the budget, meaning there's less freelance work available.

ADM guest speaker Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty warned we are in a "terrible moment of adversity" with the new Terrorism Bill coming up in April. She said she could get seven years in prison for saying Zimbabweans should rise up against Mugabe - and that we could potentially go down for reporting it, as this would be "encouraging terrorism".

Two freelance activists were honoured for their achievements in helping to organise the sector. London Freelance Branch's own Phil Sutcliffe got the Member of Honour award - see full report in the next Freelance. A gold medal went to Brian Morgan - who continues to build up freelances and inspire young members. Brian revived the Cardiff branch as a freelance, PR and book branch. When he stood down as Chair last year, branch membership had reached over 300.

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