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Union calls on members to back photojournalists’ campaign

24 January 2019

The NUJ has expressed solidarity and support for the 456 photojournalists in the Netherlands who are set to strike on Friday 25 January. 

The Dutch union Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) has organised the action in response to the erosion of pay rates for photographers.

Trade unions globally are calling on their members not to supply photos to the media or photo-libraries in the Netherlands on Friday 25 or Saturday 26 January to express support for colleagues and to demonstrate a lack of news photos as a result of the action.

Freelance rates in the Netherlands have fallen from €80 a photo in 2014 to an average of €42 today and some rates have fallen as low as €15 or €20.

The NVJ's campaign has three demands - a 14 per cent increase in rates, respect for creators' rights and the equalisation of online and print tariffs. The NVJ has said that some media companies offer between €15 to €20 for an online photo as opposed to €42 to €50 for print.

Photographers will assemble in front of the Dutch Press Agency (ANP) building in The Hague tomorrow and hand over a large version of an advert that will appear in the Dutch press and containing the names of all the photojournalists taking part in the action. The NVJ has chosen ANP as the assembly point because it is the largest company in this part of the industry and proposed to reduce photography rates further this year.

The NVJ has asked journalists to express solidarity with photojournalists by highlighting the campaign, including the news in editorial columns or broadcasts and everyone can express support on social media using the hashtags #fotolozevrijdag #fotojournalistiekheefteenprijs

The Dutch union says photojournalists are no longer prepared to accept being told, "we can't pay more" or "we don't negotiate collectively but with the individuals".

René de Monchy, NVJ chair, said:

"They will be sounding the alarm bells over the frighteningly low pay rates for their work. The rates that media companies are paying offer no future perspective, they are not sufficient to maintain the profession. Photojournalism has a price, therefore tariffs are needed which offer a sustainable future. Photojournalists might work far away from their editors but they form an integral part of our profession. Only with quality and independence in pictures and words can we continue to make a difference. Support us because, simply put, we need each other to keep the core of our profession going."

Natasha Hirst, chair of the NUJ photographers council, said:

"The action organised by our sister union sends the strongest possible message to all media companies at home and abroad - photographers simply can't survive on such low rates. The current situation is not acceptable or sustainable. We will do everything we can to help win fair rates for the job. Your fight is our fight. Solidarity!" 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"We are encouraging all NUJ members not to provide photographs to media companies in the Netherlands on Friday or Saturday. This way we can show practical solidarity and NUJ members can have a positive impact on this important dispute. Any NUJ members who withhold their work should let us know. The NVJ's campaign has global ramifications and that's why it is essential that media workers stand alongside the photojournalists taking action."  

Last week, the NUJ's national executive council met in London, offered resounding support for the dispute, and issued the following statement:  "The National Executive of the National Union of Journalists in Britain and Ireland welcomes the move by photographer members of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ) to campaign for better rates of pay. This council notes that freelance photographers in the Netherlands are planning to strike on 25 January to put pressure on publishers and other media to improve rates. This council resolves to send a message of support to colleagues in the Netherlands. This council undertakes to publicise this action among photographers and other freelance journalists in the UK and Ireland and encourage them, where possible, to not supply media outlets in the Netherlands on 25 January, or for publication on 26 January."

The NUJ’s branch in the Netherlands has also expressed strong support for the campaign.

Comments from the day of action on Friday 25 January:

Thomas Bruning, NVJ general secretary, said:

"I’m very proud of my colleagues because it is really something to take the risk, if you are freelance, of laying down your work. Even on a European level this is rare, for many freelancers to go out on strike, to join together to come here today to fight for their case that is that photojournalism is  profession and should be paid as a profession.
"Photojournalists have been struggling for almost ten years to keep their profession but it is never too late. If we can take our case to the public, to make it clear that independent, quality photos do make a difference then it is not too late. You see the reaction of the public when it comes to fake news, I think it is the same with fake photographs, you need the professionals, you need independent people to bring real news to the public, I think independent professional photojournalists can do this."

Dutch woman photographer: "(The work) is less, appears to be is less professional, less content, you are valued less. It’s like it is supposed to be a hobby instead of my work. Some newspapers still pay well but others pay very, very little, so little, €30 that you just can’t survive on it."

Peter from Rotterdam: "I’ve been a photographer since 1989, at the beginning we earned good money but recently, every year, the rates have got lower and lower. I know photographers who have stopped because they simply can’t earn enough money. The profession is dying. Look around here, do you see anybody aged under 30? It’s terrible to see your work sold for so little."

Dutch woman photographer: "Photojournalism is worth more than people pay for it today. People can’t live on it."

Wilbert from Giethorn: "For me, what is more important than ever is the independence of journalism. In today’s world where everyone is shouting anything, it is very important that there are journalists who can find the facts. It is very important that our pictures, our world, is reliable, is independent, tells the story of the news of the day, that means you should be paid for it, it can’t just be a hobby. In Holland these days we earn less than a plumber but we have to live too, to pay too for the groceries, the petrol, our homes."

Rosa Garcia Lopez, NVJ freelance photojournalist organiser, addressing the demonstration said:

"You came from north and south from small villages and from large cities, alone and in groups, more would have liked join us but they don’t dare to, they have told me themselves. Still, today 500 photojournalists will not be offering photographs to the media and picture libraries. With the current rates of pay photojournalism will not survive, the rates for photojournalists must not be allowed to fall, we call upon the ANP and others to invest now in the future of photo-journalism."

Tags: , strike, solidarity, ifj, netherlands, photographers, photographers' council, photographers' rights, photography, photo-journalism, photojournalists, rate for the job, rates, pay