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Freelance Month launched as recession hits self-employed

1 July 2009

The NUJ has today launched Freelance Month - a month of concentrated campaigning that puts the spotlight on the issues facing freelance workers. During July, the union's branches and chapels are being urged to organise events for freelance members.

A call is also going out to other unions to join with the NUJ to campaign for better rights for casual workers and contributors.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:

"Whenever anyone at the union talks about the problems of journalists we always include freelances in our analysis. But freelance members, especially those who work alone from home, can feel left out.
"So, throughout July, we want all our activists and staff colleagues to think about the concerns of our self-employed members.
"We have chosen this time because the massive cut backs in the media have hit freelances at least as hard as staff. Many people taking redundancy are choosing to go freelance – which means more people competing for less work.
"Freelance Month is a chance to give these issues a high profile within the union, but the campaigning will continue well beyond the summer."

As part of the long-term campaign, the NUJ will be calling on the British and Irish governments to improve legal protection for casual and self-employed people.

John Toner, NUJ Freelance Organiser, said:

"The way the UK government currently defines a 'worker' means that many people are effectively working full-time for companies, but without any of the employment protection granted to employees.
"I know of a reporter who worked for 18 months for a newspaper, doing between five and 10 shifts per week.
"One night he was approached and told: 'We won't be needing you any more after tonight'. His entire source of income was cut off at a stroke.
"A columnist received 90 per cent of her income from a weekly column in a national newspaper. After 12 years of working for the same company, she received an email to say she would be paid for two columns she had already filed but there would be no more commissions.
"We would like to see a clearer definition of a 'worker' in the UK and Ireland with statutory workers' rights on a pro rata basis. There is already a European directive on holiday pay, and a similar formula could be made to apply to other rights."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary, said:

"We know freelances feel more vulnerable because they don't have workplace union chapels to protect them.
"So I would urge all freelance members to support freelance month by attending their local branch meeting and taking part.
"I would also all urge all freelance journalists who are not union members to join. Together we can make a difference."

Tags: , freelance, recession, branch, chapels, casual staff, employment rights