Day of action gets results

THE NUJ held its Freelance Day of Action on 7 June, opening at 08:45 with a manifestation outside the BBC Worldwide office in the West London White City complex. The union's General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary, President and national freelance organiser all attended and participant Phil Sutcliffe notes: "we got a very nice reception from the assorted staff in terms of taking the leaflets - which were all about the Worldwide magazines' standard contract copyright grab."

Afterward, we received an email from a staff member who had better remain anonymous: "I hope that by the time you read this that you will have enjoyed a superb party after today's nationwide demonstrations. Certainly over here at BBC Worldwide it got people talking, both members and non-members alike. One of the things our chapel wanted to ask was how BBC Worldwide compares to other publishers on issues like rights contracts, indemnity and levels of freelance pay." The Freelance understands that an official chapel lobby for change, with the facts and figures at their fingertips, is a distinct possibility.

Management's response was more expected: the Human Resources department told the Guardian that they are "very happy to meet with any relevant organisation seeking further reassurances that our approach to rights acquisition is always in the interests of both parties. However, we believe negotiations should remain individual - that is, by project and between commissioning editor and freelance contributor." Which is rather pre-judging the meeting, yes?

Edinburgh exhibition: © David Gordon
THE National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Freelance Day of Action event in the Scottish Parliament. As part of a day designed to raise awareness of issues faced by freelance journalists and photographers an exhibition and reception was held in the Parliament. Photographer Gerry McCann (left) points out something of great interest to NUJ President Tim Lezard, Sandra White MSP and NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear.

Scottish freelances organised an exhibition and reception at the Edinburgh Parliament: see the picture caption above. Around 40 freelances, and a handful of supportive staffers, joined in and member Ginny Clark concludes that "The profile of Scottish freelances has received a significant boost. Politicians and policy makers are now more aware, not only of the contribution we make to Scottish society, but of the threats to our industry and to our livelihoods."

Photographer David Gordon reports that "I just said 'no' to the Press Gazette offer of £50 for some pictures of this event. The Rate For The Job shows £60 paid for a stock shot in 2004."

In the capital of Wales, eight freelances met. "Freelance NUJ activity isn't that strong in Wales," Cath Janes notes, so she was pleased with the Cardiff turnout, and hopes that "it'll be the start of increased activity."

Eight also showed up at Calderdale NUJ's gathering in Hebden Bridge ("still basking from its recent media attention as the 'fourth funkiest place on the planet' - who writes this stuff?") They discussed rights, marketing and websites, ways to overcome "cabin fever" for home workers, tackling the Beeb on copyright, the best ways to get started each day at work...

In Bristol, freelance activists met with the chapel at the Evening Post - the only one in the Northcliffe group. "We spoke a lot about rates of pay and how management undercuts staff pay by giving work to freelances at ridiculously low rates," Christina Zaba reports, "but comparing them, we found that they differed from person to person." Younger freelances were being fobbed off with lower rates than the experienced. So now that freelances in the area have got together, they're going to compare notes on rates paid locally. (Remember the Rate for the Job online! Ed) A gathering in the evening drew 30. There were also gatherings in Wiltshire and Leeds.

There was a similar meeting in Birmingham - more details as soon as the Freeelance has them.

Back in London, the new Freelance Fees Guide discussion forums were previewed by activists in the evening - see the piece announcing it.

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