New casual relationships

PAY AND benefits for "casuals" at the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs should be due a boost this month (November) when the NUJ goes into negotiations with Conrad Black's company for the first time in ten years - since the Canadian media mogul derecognised the union.

Glyn Roberts, who represents casuals - day shift workers, who are mostly sub-editors - on the staff chapel committee, told the October meeting of LFB that, now that recognition has been regained, the main objectives for casuals were:

  • to achieve a "decent minimum" rate per day - shift pay is currently "all over the place" with a shocking low-end of £70;
  • to secure a legitimate and standardised application of the newish Fairness At Work legislation entitlement to paid holiday for "workers" (who are not full-time staff, but work in many ways under the same conditions as staff);
  • to enable these workers, if they wish, to plug into the company's pension schemes, including the new stakeholder system.

Follow-up discussion revealed confusion among branch members and in media companies about exactly which kind of "worker" is entitled to such rights. Members reported that the Guardian/Observer automatically included holiday pay in its NUJ-negotiated day shift rate and that News International, which does not deal with the union, offered paid holiday to regular shift workers (in themselves two slightly different responses to the law which, freelance organiser John Toner pointed out, specifies "paid holiday" as a health and safety issue).

So the meeting asked the branch committee to put together a group to work with the freelance office to put together and publish clear information on the subject for members as soon as possible.

Roberts also offered to represent freelances - that is self-employed, none-PAYEing writers, photographers etc - on the Telegraph chapel committee on issues such as the copyright-abusing launch of an online edition of the newspapers sold to readers abroad on subscription. The meeting thanked him, but noted that the branch should also look for a "non-casual" freelance representative to share the load.

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