THE JUNE meeting heard from Dave Toomer about the campaign to deal with the sub-burger-flipper rates of pay in some media - and Dave asked for freelances' ideas on the issue to take to the union's Policy Committee later in the week.
Neither the successful dispute at Guardian Media Group local titles in Greater Manchester, nor the strike in Spalding that was continuing as the Freelance went to press, would have happened without the Bradford area dispute in January. That had started as a conversation in a pub, with three members discussing their grievances with Northern Organiser Miles Barter - and it ended up, he said, "revolutionising the confidence of people in the local news sector". It had left the union's organisation "running to catch up with the members".
Dave thanked London Freelance Branch for its support of the Manchester dispute, in which he was involved.
Chair Phil Sutcliffe suggested it was important that "freelances organise as a powerful force independent of the staff and in constant collaboration with them". It seems that not enough freelances have the time to join Chapel committees in newspaper or broadcasting offices to foster that collaboration - or, perhaps, that not enough know they can.
On rates for freelances, Jenny Vaughan pointed out that the Freelance Fees Guide simply recommends not doing any work for local papers, because the amounts offered are so derisory. Clearly, sooner or later union agreements need to include increased minumum freelance rates. These need to be much higher than daily staff salaries, not only because our costs are higher but to make sure we're used where our skills are important, not as substitutes for staff.
But the Freelance editor noted that the phrase "freelance agreement" was likely to send company lawyers into a prolonged spin. So, as a minumum position, agreements in the near future on staff terms should include a commitment to negotiate a comprehensive freelance agreement later.