Scotsman snappers call for boycott - paper goes fundamentalist

Edinburgh freelance lockout

THE NUJ has established a hardship fund for dependants of photographers who are, in effect, locked out by Scotsman Publications. A "lock-out" is (for younger readers) the opposite of a strike. The Scotsman Publications Limited (TSPL) is refusing to engage freelance photographers on the grounds that they have refused to sign a contract which they describe as iniquitous. The photographers have called on all colleagues to boycott TPSL, and report strong support for this solidarity call.

NUJ President Dave Toomer made an initial £500 donation to the hardship kitty on 18 March, from his "president's fund". The National Executive was due to debate further support before the union's Annual Delegate Meeting on 29 March.

The contract that the photographers rejected is the third issued by TPSL. One was in December, and two were issued on the same day during the last week in February. This was necessary because of "typos". Unfortunately for TPSL, photographers had already started an email organising list, Scottish Newspapers' Association of Photographers (SNAP), in response to a contract "offered" by Business AM. They are organising independently, though many have now joined the NUJ.

Around 45 photographers were sent the contract - mainly people who worked news and sports shifts. Before 1 March TSPL told all the photographers that unless they signed, they would not work for the paper. To date, only one has signed.

The rest have stopped working for the paper and have asked other photographers to show their solidarity by doing the same. They have had massive solidarity from photographers doing magazine work as well as agencies around Scotland and the north of England.

In mid-March between 20 and 30 photographers also demanded that none of their pictures held in the TSPL picture library be used in the papers. They believe this is a first.

The papers continue to come out, but it is clear that they are struggling to find sufficient pictures to look credible. One Edinburgh journalist remarked that the papers' output "is clearly crap".

Talks were continuing (as of 21 March) to try to find a solution.

The main points of contention in the contract are: unlimited internet use rights; no payment for reprints in the paper that commissioned the work; mandatory syndication with an undefined deal; and unclearly defined purchase of other rights.

One photographer was lured from a full-time job with an agency to freelance for the papers just a month before the dispute started. He was promised that there was plenty of work and that he would never be asked to sign a contract that the picture editor would not sign himself. Within a month he was told that he would not work again until he had signed, and had had taken from him his company camera and photographic equipment that he had been told he could buy from the company.

The contracts also contain a great deal of offensive legal mumbo-jumbo. For example photographers must undertake to do nothing that is "offensive to religion" while working for the papers. They must also guarantee that none of the work they supply has contravened any law in any jurisdiction in the world - a frankly impossible request.

The Freelance notes that photography itself is illegal in Afghanistan, whose de facto rulers apply strictly the religious maxim first written in the Second Commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing ..." To lawyers who throw everything they can think of into "laundry-list" contracts: Verily beware, lest you forbid what you seek to own.

For further updates, photographers can join the Editorial Photo UK mailing list - see www.epuk.org - or email snap@snap-online.net to inquire about SNAP.

Last modified: 21 March 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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