Hark, the Herald

FREELANCE photographers at the Glasgow-based Herald group of papers, owned by Newsquest and thence by US group Gannet, are in dispute - resisting contracts that the company wants to impose. So how are they doing it? Nick McGowan-Lowe explains...

IT IS NO coincidence that the skills required to be a great freelance photographer - resourcefulness, vision, and the ability to be creative under pressure - are also skills that make a great union activist - something the freelance photographer opposing the photographic contract "offered"by the Herald, Sunday Herald and  Evening Times understand all too well.

Since late July, the freelance photographers supplying these have been united in their opposition to a proposed new contract that would see their incomes substantially cut, while the company would stand to profit from resale of their work.

For almost four months, in addition to the ongoing negotiations held by the NUJ's Scottish Office, they have been meeting, discussing and campaigning: pooling their collective knowledge, and providing mutual moral support through regular meeting and an email network.

Their campaigning has already secured coverage on numerous industry news sites - alerting even more freelances to the dispute.

In October they contacted all the key freelances throughout Scotland who supply the Herald's three titles. The result of that was a joint letter to Managing Director Tim Blott from 40 Scottish freelances and agencies, warning that any change to the current terms and conditions would mean the signatories would review their ongoing relationship with the Herald.

The move has echoes of a similar letter, sent to picture editors at Edinburgh-based Scotsman Publications at the start of an almost identical NUJ-backed dispute in 2000 over the right for freelances to be paid a fair rate for their work.

Perhaps more importantly, the Herald freelances have secured the support of staff photographers at the titles, who recognise that the security of their own jobs depends on freelances having a fair deal.

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