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The UK’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has published a freelances charter as part of its campaign for its members who have been left out by the Government’s Coronavirus financial help schemes.

The campaign looks for strengthened protections for freelancers, of which a large proportion of the media industry in the U, and in many parts of the world are.

The charter calls for the right for freelancers to organise in a trade union, to have a written contract with fair terms and conditions, prompt payment and equal treatment at work in terms of health and safety.

Freelances should get holiday pay, parental leave and allowances and a retirement pension. They should have the right to resist companies forcing them on to PAYE, to incorporate as a limited company, or work under umbrella companies.

The campaign will ask employers, employer organisations, industry bodies, politicians and individual supporters to sign up to its aims.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the need for a massive wake-up call about working practices in the media industry and shown why reformed public policy for freelances and the self-employed is vital.

“The rights and protections for freelances and the self-employed have been shown to be woefully lacking, so the NUJ is determined to fight to change that.

“That’s why we’re launching our new Fair Deal for Freelances campaign, with a 10-point Freelance Charter, to ensure their working conditions and terms of engagement are fit for purpose.”

Reform of freelance rights were part of the recommendations of a report from the House of Lords Digital Communications which said: “We welcome the government’s proposals to strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner and encourage the government and the commissioner to work with freelance journalists to ensure that these new powers address the difficulties they face relating to unfair payment practices, including late payment, payment on publication and ‘kill fees’.

“The government should consult on whether further legislation is needed to strengthen the rights of freelancers, including whether contract law should be amended to ensure that freelancers are not solely liable for legal costs arising from their work and whether copyright law should be reformed to make freelance–author copyright ownership inalienable.”

The union will be discussing with the committee how to further its recommendations.

National Union of Journalists Freelances Charter

• Trades union collective bargaining to improve terms and conditions for freelances side by side with staff
• Fair written contracts free from the threat of disadvantage for asserting their rights
• Respect for their creators’ rights and unwaivable moral rights
• Equalised rights with employees including; sick pay; maternity, paternity and parental leave; unemployment benefit; full access to benefits and social securities
• Choice over how they freelance and are taxed, with an end to advance tax payments
• Work free from pressure to operate on a PAYE basis, or to incorporate, or work through umbrella companies
• Equal health and safety protections including parity of training, insurances and security provision
• Fair fees and terms, and prompt payments
• Dignity and respect at work, free from bullying, harassment or discrimination, with parity of access to grievance procedures
• Equal professional rights, including the right to protect sources, seek information and uphold ethical standards

The National Union of Journalist’s Freelances Charter can be downloaded here.

Editor’s View

It is without a doubt that I fully support this effort by the NUJ, and the fact that freelancers have been and continue to be completely ignored by HM Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and the UK Government as a whole is utterly deplorable.

Kevin Coy – Editor, News on News