Low earners’ subscription changes proposed

A REVIEW ordered by the NUJ's Finance Committee (FC) could alter freelance members' subscriptions. The proposals are intended to ensure that revenue raised from freelances is calculated in a way that is fair and that union money is spent as effectively as possible. These plans would also change the way union activists who are freelances are compensated for time spent on union business. FC has asked the freelance sector to consider and respond to two initial changes.

The first change suggested by FC is that freelances' eligibility for reduced-rate membership should be calculated on our gross earnings, rather than net. The rule book is unclear on this point - it merely says that "earnings" should form the basis of the calculation.

Current practice is that freelances can reduce their NUJ membership contribution to half a per cent of their net, taxable income - after deducting their expenses from total receipts - if that is below £13,600 a year. No member should pay more than one per cent of their "income" in subscriptions, either. The minimum contribution, though, is £3.87 a month.

If FC's proposal were adopted, it would mean that only those with total income below £13,600 would qualify for reduced rates. Supporters of this move point out that staffers' contributions are calculated on their gross earnings. They further argue that while freelances and their accountants quite legitimately work to arrange their affairs so that their profits appear as low as possible for taxation purposes, it is not fair to apply the same feats of creative book keeping to calculating payment of NUJ subscriptions.

The second proposed change is to the freelance "loss of earnings" (FLOE) allowance - £50 per day is paid to freelance members attending NUJ meetings as elected representatives, for example the National Executive Council, the Freelance Industrial Council - and Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM). The proposal, in brief, is that only three days' allowance be paid for ADM.

I am keen to represent the views of actual freelances in the debate on both these issues. The FC of the NUJ has already taken a "holding" position in favour of both reforms, so if you do nothing, they are likely to be approved.

If you feel that either change should be resisted - particularly if you believe that it could have a significant adverse effect on you - please get in touch. You can either call me on 07050 1656563 or email tim@timdawsn.demon.co.uk.

  • The background to the proposal on FLOE is this. Many, though by no means all, staff activists receive paid time off work to undertake NUJ business as part of their trades union facilities agreements with employers. The aim of the FLOE is to ensure that freelance activists do not lose out unduly as a result of undertaking NUJ work. At the moment, delegates who are freelance attending ADM are entitled to claim FLOE for every day they are at the conference - even though one of these days is a Sunday, a half of which is usually taken up with travel. According to FC, few staff delegates with facilities agreements receive recompense for doing NUJ work on a Sunday, so, they argues, it is inequitable that freelances should. FC is suggesting replacing the daily FLOE allowance with an ADM FLOE allowance equivalent to three days FLOE. This would be payable to all freelance delegates who attended the conference for three days or more.
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