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NUJ reports media exploitation to TUC

30 November 2007

Some of the UK's biggest media companies have been named in an NUJ submission to the TUC on vulnerable workers. The report details ways in which people working in a sector seen by many as a glamorous career choice often face poor terms and conditions and limited job security.

The submission was made to the TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Employment, which is investigating the problems faced by workers most at risk of exploitation.

It details how workers are denied usual employment protection because they are employed as freelancers, even though they are working regular shifts for long periods. One example includes an NUJ member who was working 10 shifts a week for more than 18 months at News International, but was given less than a day's notice that he was no longer required.

The Telegraph and the Guardian are also cited as examples of workplaces where freelances and casuals find themselves with limited protection compared to their full-time colleagues.

The submission also highlights the fact that newly qualified journalists are often required to do extensive unpaid work experience placements before being able to get a foot on the career ladder. Such practices are particularly prevalent in the television industry and in consumer magazines, areas which are particularly attractive to young workers. It is estimated that about 7 per cent to 8 per cent of the industry is "staffed" by people who are unpaid.

Often these placements are in breach of minimum wage laws, but with such a close-knit industry it can be difficult for individuals to raise these issues on their own. The NUJ is calling for stronger enforcement of the legislation by government. This would enhance unions' ability to act without identifying specific individuals.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, speaking on the day of the NUJ's submission, said:

"We are not against genuine work experience as part of a recognised training course, but much of what's happening is plain exploitation.
"We've raised these issues with employers and the government, yet those unpaid placements are still on offer. This not only damages jobs and forces down wages in the industry, it also restricts access to the sector to those people with enough money to work for free.
"Bogus work experience placements and the increasingly widespread use of casual employment mean that a huge proportion of the people working in the media sector now fall outside normal employment protection."

Tags: , vulnerable workers, news international, work experience, rights, guardian, exploitation, tuc, newspapers, telegraph, freelance