The MEAA has just been granted the power to collectively represent freelancers. This is a very important development as now the union is able to do a lot more for us.
It will be very interesting to see how the MEAA uses this new power in the following months. There are certainly plenty of awful standard freelance contracts that need to be addressed.
Here’s to seeing some real results!
Pacific Magazines, a major local publisher in the Seven stable which publishes titles including New Idea, marie claire and Better Homes and Gardens, has issued a new contributor contract for freelancers requiring they sign away all future rights including online. The company is also seeking to strip legal protections from writers with an indemnity clause shifting liability from Pacific Magazines to freelancers should there be legal action arising from a freelance contribution.
The MEAA strongly advises all freelancers NOT to sign the contract- note the Alliance is currently in negotiations with Pacific Magazines management for a new agreement for permanent staff.
The Alliance is convening urgent meetings for freelance writers (members or non-members welcome) in Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the Pacific Magazines contract.
Just turn up – or for more info – contact Alliance organiser Claire O’Rourke at email@example.com or 02 9333 0935.
Sydney: Thursday, February 11, 6pm, Alliance office cnr Chalmers and Redfern streets, Redfern. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Melbourne: Wednesday, February 17, 6.30pm Melbourne Central Lion Hotel, Lvl 3, Melbourne Central Adjacent to the Hoyts cinema box office . RSVP to email@example.com
Prominent Australian freelance journalist and academic Margaret Simons has posted a request on her regular Crikey blog for freelancers to email her with the current rates they are paid.
The 2010 MEAA freelance rates, available as a PDF download on the MEAA website here, suggest that the minimum rate for a freelance journalist should be 89c a word (with $890 paid for any article of 1,000 words or less).
There are certainly publications in Australia which pay more on a per-word basis; eg The Monthly, Griffith Review and Reader’s Digest all pay around $1 a word – and there are many other corporate and trade publications which pay that or more.
However, metro daily newspapers generally pay around 65c per word – way less for travel – and plenty of Australian magazines still pay just 50c a word or even less.
We would love to see freelancers contact Margaret with their current pay rates – she’s promised anonymity.
We have regular discussions about pay rates in our Freeline google group – if you’re an Australian freelance writer, you’re welcome to join the discussion online.
It is good that the MEAA has finally taken the first step to change the standard Fairfax freelance contract.
The standard Fairfax freelance contract, which has been in place for three years, is viewed by many freelancers as particularly unfair. For example, if Fairfax publish three pieces of work by a freelancer within a six month period then that freelancer is forbidden to have work published by any other major newspaper or magazine and Fairfax are not required to provide any further work. In other words, for the sake of work worth $3000 at the very most a freelancer is prevented from earning a living. Other clauses relating to licenses allowing Fairfax to use freelancers’ work for no extra compensation are also of concern.
While the Fairfax contract is particularly harsh, it is nonetheless symptomatic of increasingly poor working conditions for freelancers industry wide.
By approaching the ACCC in late December 2009, the union will learn whether it can represent freelancers like it represents journalists who are employees. If it can, then there is no reason why the union can’t begin a bargaining process where Fairfax management will have to come to the negotiating table.
The Sydney Freelance Journalists Group will report whether the union can represent us effectively in this important issue when the ACCC’s decision is made sometime next year.