EMAP health freelances network

EMAP's newly-acquired health division was Publisher of the Month at the December Branch meeting. Frank Chalmers told the meeting: "There are three things you should never believe: `The cheque is in the post,' `There will be no hurricane,' and `Your conditions of work will not change'."

Freelance journalists supplying services to the former Macmillan health titles, which were bought by EMAP in November, are forming a health freelance network to defend wordage and shift rates and oppose the introduction of taxation at source. More than 50 had already signed up a month before the 14 January launch.

Freelances with schedule D status had not been taxed at source by Macmillan but, within days of the sale, commissioning editors were instructed to issue freelances with elaborate forms for applying for "exemption" from being paid net of tax.

A freelance network has existed at Macmillan for seven years and has, in the past, negotiated directly with management. This has led to the equalisation of wordage and shift rates across the magazines and the awarding of annual rate rises linked to percentage increases in staff salaries. When Macmillan went over to new technology the network was able to negotiate Apple Mac training for regular contributors.

But no-one has any illusions about what lies ahead. Staff at Macmillan were told on 17 November that their magazines -- Nursing Times, the Health Service Journal, Therapy Weekly and some monthlies -- had been sold to Emap, but that there would be no changes in terms and conditions. Six hours later the FoC and deputy FoC/MoC were informed by letter that the NUJ had been de-recognised. Editors have also been told that there will be some redundancies, but EMAP has implied that this will be among "support staff" rather than editorial staff.

There is widespread concern among freelances that they will bear the brunt of cutbacks which will be necessary to help EMAP recoup the £85m it paid for the takeover of the Macmillan Health Division. However, they are determined that they will not be taxed at source and that lower freelance rates will not be introduced through a dismantling of the established pay structure.

For further details contact Mike Cross: 0171-359 2565 or mike_cross@compuserve.com, or Frank Chalmers on 0171-354 5962.

Jan/Feb 1998

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