For fair contracts, send us the unfair ones

THE EUROPEAN Federation of Journalists has launched a continent-wide campaign for fair contracts for journalists. The first step here in the UK is to gather information on contracts. Especially interesting will be details of contracts being imposed without negotiation. So we're asking for your help, as part of our annual freelance market monitor survey.

At the heart of UK law is the idea of "primacy of contract". The law should do nothing, say lawmakers - especially conservatives - to stop you sitting down across a table from Rupert Murdoch to negotiate as competitive equals whatever deal you both like. One economist showed the flaw in this fantasy by declaring that any contract must be "fair" unless one party held a literal gun to the head of the other.

So: do you have photos of said gun, smoking? Or has any editor carelessly put in writing that if you don't sign the attached contract you'll never darken their door again? Or hinted, in writing? We need to hear from you. We need examples of the most egregious contracts you have been presented with, even if there isn't evidence of them being imposed.

If you won't in fact be darkening their door, you may as well share the exchange: but rest assured that we will treat all communications about contracts in strict confidence until or unless we have your specific authorisation otherwise.

So, in particular, we would like you to tell us:

  • Can you send examples of contracts you have been offered by clients - whether good or bad, whether you accepted or declined?
  • Can you send examples of messages pressuring you to sign "standard" contracts? For example, hints or direct statements from commissioners that you won't get work unless you sign: examples of clients who are willing to negotiate would be useful too.
  • What work have you lost in the last year? How does it compare to last year? What are the reasons for the work disappearing?
  • What new work or fields of work have appeared?
  • How have rates changed?

Please send your information to freelanceoffice@nuj.org.uk with the subject line "Freelance survey" The closing date for this year's entries is Saturday 14 July.

These details will feed into a continent-wide campaign, with the EFJ - the federation of journalists ‘unions in Europe - seeking the support of Members of the European Parliament. The UK Creators' Rights Alliance (CRA), of which the NUJ is a leading member, has also offered support to the European Composers and Songwriters Alliance in its complaint to the European competition authority over the imposition of contracts on their members. The CRA has also allied with the UK consumer watchdog Consumer Focus to combat unfair contracts - see www.londonfreelance.org/fl/1204copy2.html - and the EFJ is extending this contact Europe-wide.

Please sign the online petition at www.change.org/petitions/fair-trade-for-creators and spread the word about it.

Last modified: 06 Jun 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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