It’s good to talk - about rates, contracts and Haymarket
FREELANCE journalists need to start sharing their experiences and linking up with each other, if they are going to resist attacks on pay and conditions, freelance organiser John Toner told a freelance activists' summit meeting on 16 March. More than 20 members met at Headland House to hear about successful campaigns to improve freelance conditions and discuss tactics.
Ian Cranna described how Haymarket has recently changed the ways that it engages "casuals", paying them holiday and sickness pay, but insisting on taxing them at source, and cutting day rates from £150 to £120. A member reported that this followed another magazine publisher being hit hard by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for paying people who were really staff as if freelance.
Some had been told that they would have to accept the new rate even if they were sub-editing at home. At least one person had, we were informed telepathically, managed to negotiate the day rate back up a bit, on condition of not telling.
Assistant Organiser Pamela Morton described an increasing number of publishers trying to require contributors to sign "indemnity" agreements, which aim to shift all legal risk, including the cost of defending defamation cases or copyright disputes, onto freelances. She also described instances of members agreeing amendments such as promising to use all reasonable professional efforts to ensure that their copy posed no legal risk, or limiting the amount of the indemnity to the amount paid.
Mike Holderness, chair of the Creators' Rights Alliance, outlined recent developments in the NUJ's ongoing campaign to defend freelance journalists' rights to their work - see page 1. NUJ vice president (job share) Adam Christie told the meeting about the range of resources that the union made available, including the Freelance Fact Pack and the Freelance Directory. He urged members to share information on what they're being paid through www.londonfreelance.org/rates
Closing the meeting, General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet promised freelances that we could count on her support, and that of the rest of the NUJ, when they came together to campaign for improved pay and conditions.