The National Union of Journalists has launched a #ForgottenFreelances campaign for a fair deal for the many freelances who have fallen between the cracks of the government’s rescue schemes for workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has sent a letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlining how many members are unable to get access to financial help while their work has completely dried up and they face real hardship.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“The NUJ is calling on the Chancellor to take urgent action over the many gaps in provision that have left freelances feeling cast aside and forgotten, plunging many into financial crisis.
“Practical support and help now is vital if freelance journalists are to sustain themselves and their families and be in a position to work once the economic shockwaves of lockdown subside and the recovery begins.
“The fault-lines in the industry have left many in precarious positions. Freelances carve out their careers working shifts and on short-term contracts. Now they are being penalised for the way in which the industry employs them. Media companies are refusing to furlough PAYE workers, which is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Job Retention Scheme. Freelances must be given real support and the same safety net as other workers.”
On 26 March, the UK government announced the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus.The NUJ welcomed it, but it soon became clear that many people were excluded.
One problem has been news organisations which pay many journalists and photographers PAYE although they are not on the staff. Many of these companies have refused to put these people on a furlough with the work colleagues they sit next to, day in, day out.
The union’s freelance office has been inundated with pleas for help from other members who have fallen foul of criteria laid down in the SEISS.
The present crisis has laid bare the precarious nature of the UK media workforce. To make a living, many freelance journalists, photographers, illustrators, editors and PR workers have to juggle a portfolio of jobs, each paid and taxed in different ways.
The letter to the Chancellor sets out a whole raft of circumstances which have left members high and dry, without government assistance.
Support freelance colleagues by sending this letter to your MP which urges the UK government to revamp its scheme to provide more support for freelances, PAYE individuals and the self-employed. It says: “Longer-term support is also needed beyond June since most will see a longer-term impact from cancelled work and postponed events that will extend well beyond the summer. When furloughed/employed individuals start going back to work many freelances will still be facing significant continuing loss of income.”
Support the NUJ's #ForgottenFreelance campaign by tweeting using the hastag or using the #ForgottenFreelances logos.