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Freelances matter at Trades Union Congress

LONDON Freelance Branch Chair Pennie Quinton was one of the National Union of Journalists' representatives to the Trades Union Congress gathering in Brighton from 8 to 11 September.

Pennie Quinton speaks

Pennie Quinton speaking at TUC 2019

Pennie spoke in support of Motion 27 from the actors' union Equity, which calls on the UK trade union movement to recognise that in campaigning for improved terms and conditions for the "falsely" self-employed it is important to remember that many truly self-employed workers, particularly musicians and performers, are keen to maintain their self-employed status whilst still needing union representation.

President, Congress -

I am Chair of London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists - the largest Branch in the NUJ, with 3000 members. We find that within the trade union movement freelance work is often seen as an option of last resort.

This is not the case for many of our members, for whom the freedom of freelancing is a choice giving autonomy and control over our lives. However, our members, like any other workers, need the support of their union - to tackle late payments, low pay and poor working conditions.

Smaller craft unions such as the NUJ and the Musicians' Union and Equity have a wealth of experience in representing creatives.

We ask that the TUC utilise this body of knowledge in developing collective bargaining arrangements for our for sector - for unless authors and performers are paid fairly for the skilled work that we do there is little hope of a vibrant and diverse cultural and news industry representing the voices of a diverse world that is not just pale, male and stale.

Our members are often told that because they love their work publicity is "sufficient recompense". Try telling your telephone provider that you will Tweet your gratitude for their services and that good publicity is enough!

TUC: we need you!

This is not just a battle for freelance workers. We in the NUJ have worked on this issue with the International and European Federations of Journalists - placing the creative rights of workers at the heart of the global trade union agenda.

The motion was passed. A motion from the actors' union Equity calling on the UK government to implement the recent EU copyright directive fully into UK law was also passed.

Other members of the delegation were general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ president Sian Jones, and NEC members Steve Bird and Chris Frost. The NUJ proposed two motions, calling for strengthening of the International Labour Organization and for campaign for government to fully fund free TV licences for over-75s and for the creation of a sustainable funding model for the BBC. Both were passed.

Updated 12 November 2019

  • We corrected the number of the motion to TUC and the union that proposed it.