It's called a contract: it means you pay me

GLASGOW freelance writer Elizabeth Marriott won a big court victory in January thanks to Scottish Organizer Paul Holleran. The case, heard by a Sheriff in a commercial court, sought the fee for a report verbally commissioned by Glasgow City Council on 23 June 2004.

Elizabeth Marriott presents NUJ Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran with a signed copy of her banked cheque from Glasgow City Council: photo © Joan Macdonald
Elizabeth Marriott presents NUJ Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran with a signed copy of her banked cheque from Glasgow City Council.
That meeting - attended by Marriott, Holleran, two senior Council officers and a senior city solicitor -  aimed to resolve two previous failed contracts for research begun in 2000. The first, offered and signed in Spring 2003, asked for a detailed report on Glasgow's ancient Ladywell - which Marriott hopes to see revived - within 6 months for £16,500. Soon afterward, the Council tried to expand the brief so Marriott called for a new contract. The Council now claims the first contract had never existed.

An internal process yielded a committee instruction in August 2003 to commission Marriott's research. Contract no. 2, dated February 2004, briefed the same detailed report... for £6000. Despite now-dire financial straits, Marriott didn't sign.

The June 2004 meeting agreed on a short report for the £6000 "still on offer". Four copies were delivered in early July but the city's promised quick follow-up didn't happen. A letter in August 2004 denied commissioning the report and refused payment. Marriott turned down an offer of a goodwill payment of £1000, invoiced the Council for £6000, and recalled the report pending payment. One copy came back minus its main section.

Marriott and Holleran decided to sue. Thompsons [the NUJ's usual lawyers] refused the case but a Glasgow solicitor agreed to take it on. Holleran won a hard fight for NUJ funding for it after the National Executive initially backed Thompsons' refusal.

On 7-8 December 2005, the Sheriff found none of the Council's testimony credible. His decision, issued 18 January 2006, awarded Marriott the £6000 fee plus 8 per cent interest, said the Council's evidence "made no sense", and found Marriott "impressive".

Western Scotland Freelance Branch and NUJ Glasgow drank a toast to Holleran after their February meeting. Marriott presented him with a framed copy of the Council's already-banked cheque - and his own bottle of bubbly.

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