Branch reports 2019

OFFICERS of London Freelance Branch presented reports to the Annual General Meeting in January. Here are those most readily to hand. More may follow later.

Equalities

LFB's co-equality officers Magda Ibrahim and Safiullah Tazib represented the branch at a national and international level in 2018, with seats on the NUJ's national equality council, membership of the delegation to TUC Women's Conference, and the formation of ties with journalists in Afghanistan.

Magda was elected to the NUJ national equality council for the first time in 2018, while Safi was re-elected. There have so far been three meetings since the new council was formed, with topics covered including equalities training throughout the branches, LGBTQ+ issues and the formation of an NUJ Pride group. Meetings are scheduled in January, May, September and December in 2019, with discussions to cover activity around dates including Zero Discrimination Day and International Women's Day in March, Pride in July and TUC Young Workers Month in November.

The TUC Women's Conference on 7-9 March 2018 was a chance to reflect on the revelations of pandemic sexual harassment and gender pay gaps across sectors including the media.

While celebrating 100 years since some women gained the vote, and 150 years of the TUC, the annual conference was a compelling reminder that equal treatment at work, at home, and within unions is an ongoing campaign.

NUJ delegation member Magda Ibrahim proposed a motion on equal maternity pay for self-employed women during the conference, which was attended by TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady and Dawn Butler, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities.

The difference in statutory maternity pay, for employed workers, and maternity allowance - which is a set rate for the self-employed - can mean at least a third less money when calculated based on minimum wage rates.

Magda Ibrahim is among the delegation elected to the TUC Women's Conference 2019 on 6-8 March, at which the NUJ will propose a motion on women photojournalists.

The motion will ask conference to call on the TUC and affiliates to work with the NUJ Women's Network to support the development of opportunities for women in photography to develop their careers. This includes promoting mentoring, grants and scholarships and making an effort to also allocate photography bookings to women.

Meanwhile, in June 2018, Safiullah Tazib travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan to meet with journalists from the country and deliver a letter of solidarity on behalf of LFB.

The letter expressed shock at the nine journalists killed in Kabul in April 2018 and a desire to foster strong links between those working in the Afghan media and the London Freelance Branch.

Safiullah led a branch meeting in September, updating the branch on the situation in Afghanistan, alongside a talk from Ernest Sagaga, from the International Federation of Journalists about some of the threats faced by media worldwide.

If reelected to the post at the AGM, Magda and Safi will aim to organise a seminar on equality in 2019. The LFB equality cos will also propose the seminar idea to the union's Equality Council at its next meeting in Feb 2019.

The Freelance

In 2018 the Freelance continued to provide thorough reports of every Branch meeting, giving members not able to attend a picture of what they missed.

We also reported, of course, on new issues affecting freelances and journalism. Highlights include:

  • Particularly notable was Matt's comprehensive coverage of the issues facing UK members in the EU and non-UK members in the UK.
  • We updated our guide to protecting sources - www.londonfreelance.org/fl/sources.html - to take account of the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and provided further advice demystifying this much-obfuscated development (but generally in shorter words).
  • Mike continued to cover the everlasting saga of copyright legislation, sometimes managing to make this equally mystified subject plain.
  • During the year the site has consistently seen 90,000 to 100,000 visits per month, with each visitor seeing 8-10 pages. This includes the Freelance Fees Guide, which is maintained by Freelance Industrial Council.
  • Behind the scenes, Mike has moved the Rate for the Job to a new database, which means new facilities to make it easier to find the rate you seek are coming soon
  • Even further behind the scenes, when you Tweet out an article you like, we now automatically include an image and summary. Please do it whenever you see a piece you like and/or find useful! There's a "Tweet this" button on each story uploaded this year.
  • The Branch Tweets that had by far the most impact this year were of the Rate for the Job (Tweets of which are now prettier too... we're working on trying to get the hundreds of views to inspire people to submit their own rates).

Social media

Highlights:

  • In 2018 we gained 971 new followers on Twitter
  • Content Tweeted included: freelance work/life issues; networking; training courses; organisations & resources; job listings; events; newsletters; good people to follow
  • Live reporting from Byline Festival and Delegate Meeting 2018, Southport
  • Video content from Hazel Dunlop - developing a new corner on The Freelance for social & video
  • Student recruitment events at City University - spike in followers for Nov/Dec (134)
  • Using Buffer scheduling tool
  • I joined the Freelance Industrial Council
  • We set up a branch Eventbrite to promote events and talks to a wider audience and grow our mailing list (for members who choose to use it)
  • Engaged with media: Washington Post, BBC Carrie, NUJ Official, Baris Cimen, SaMathieson, Eugene Costelloe, English PEN, Frontline Club, EFJ, IFJ, ALCS, Society of Authors, RMT Union, BECTU, Europe Street, Byline Festival, Boston Globe, Holly Powell Jones, The Freelance (Rate for the Job), City University, INJECT AI Journalism, other NUJ branches - Netherlands, Brighton etc
  • Key hashtags: #FreeTurkeyMedia, #BBCEqualPay, NUJ Campaign #InGoodCompany, #DM18, #Grenfell, #PaymentOnDelivery, #StopPOP, #EdnasLaw, #whistleblowing, #CairncrossReview, #CharityTuesday, #Brexit, #NotTheEnemy (Boston Globe), #FreePress, #Newsquest - Cumbria Strike

Membership

During 2018 the Branch welcomed 451 new members: 172 full-time, 102 temporary and 159 students.

New members meetings have been successfully organized on the last Thursday of every third month: 25 January, 26 April, 26 July and 25 October 2018. We spoke about the mission of the Union, explored our website www.londonfreelance.org and discussed job issues. New members introduced themselves and had an insight into the union's activity.

In my capacity as Membership and New Members secretary 2018, I have:

  • Helped Phil Sutcliffe and Nick Renaud-Komiya organizing the Salon 2018 which was sold out;
  • Set up and managed the Branch recruitment activity, teaming up with Larry Herman and then later with Phil Sutcliff, Magda Ibrahim and Baris Cimen: two meetings at City University with postgraduate and undergraduate students;
  • Organised the Branch meeting speakers in April (about The Trust Project) and in November (about Artificial Intelligence in Journalism) plus provided personal contacts in June (about Brexit);
  • Helped with the presence of photographer David Bailey at the Christmas Party for his Life member certificate;
  • Promoted the use of innovative apps such Eventbrite and Trello;
  • Encouraged and obtained discounts for NUJ members at the FILL Festival (Festival Of Italian Literature in London);
  • I now represent Freelances on Freelance Industrial Council, on Broadcasting Industrial Council and at the International Federation of Journalists Triennial.

Welfare Officer

Welfare work has to be confidential. Here are a few examples of cases that can be outlined without any danger of revealing the member's identity.

  • One member first contacted me in 2017 to discuss their work and how they could progress in their career. They were working as a freelance for a newspaper and for recreation magazines. As is the case with many freelance journalists, they were feeling isolated and at times needed to discuss things with someone or bounce ideas off them.
  • Another colleague found themself in difficult circumstances after their job came to an end and they moved to the countryside. They found themself isolated, unemployed and under a lot of stress. We had chats over on the phone to discuss possibilities and solutions.
  • I spent many months exchanging emails and phone calls with one colleague with an extremely complex story. They had been working with a magazine regularly. Then a new editor took over and according to the member felt threatened by them and started bullying. They found it difficult to work, got depressed and left. They had complex issues with sick relatives and caring responsibilities. It turned out they were asking someone to speak to their bank regarding mortgage payments and for legal advice. I passed them onto the NUJ's legal department. In our last phone call they were discussing ideas for a documentary and moving back to the UK mainland.
  • The most regular enquiries are about freelance membership and subscription payments which I direct to the Freelance Office or the membership department.