How will official recognition of the NUJ affect freelances?
Recognition at last
THE NUJ is re-recognised at Reed Business Information. The November LFB meeting heard from David Jones, recruitment officer for the union organisation within the company - the "chapel" - that 71 per cent of eligible journalists voted in the election for recognition and that 95 per cent of those voted yes to the union. This means that the company must now negotiate a house agreement with the union. Immediately, any member who has a dispute with the company is entitled to have a union representative accompany them to meetings over it.
First, the unequivocally good news. NUJ national newspapers organiser Jeremy Dear told the meeting that ten more companies are about to re-recognise the union and that negotiations have opened in twenty more cases. Ballots in Oxford, Bradford, Bolton, Kent and Weymouth have shown, he said, 95 per cent turnout and the lowest majority was 84 per cent in favour.
"Of course," he said, "not every company has embraced this new partnership." Hold-outs include Rupert Murdoch's News International and Associated Newspapers. "The chief evil they come up with," he reported, "is that the NUJ is an old-fashioned union because it puts out leaflets telling freelance members that if employers steal their work it'll help them get their money."
As a freelance you won't get ballot papers on re-recognition. Chapels are opting for a keep-it-simple policy on who votes: basically, staff. This minimises the chances of companies rigging the electorate.
The NUJ now has the task of negotiating good agreements. Talks on terms covering "voluntary freelance" contributors are going to be some of the most interesting. They cannot legally determine terms on copyright, because in law that's entirely a matter between you and your client. We hope that they will include commitments by companies to abide by minimum terms of fair practice. Freelance Industrial Council is drafting a set of model terms for such agreements. Discussion on the challenging matter of what to do when companies resist these continues, necessarily in private.