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Dutch union wins freelance rate deal

[NVJ]

THE DUTCH journalists' union has agreed a minimum hourly rate for all freelances working for media group DPG. The deal sets a new rate for freelances somewhat higher than the same media group's house agreement for employees - a reflection of the extra expenses that freelances have to meet.

The union, Nederlandse Vereniginig van Journalisten (NVJ), reached the deal with DPG Media in May.

DPG Nederland owns the major Dutch dailies Volkskrant, Trouw and Parool. The last two of these started life as stencilled underground Resistance newsletters in the Second World War. It also owns many regional and local titles in the Netherlands. DPG Belgium is one of Belgium's biggest media groups.

Under the new "Work Code" deal, freelances with DPG in the Netherlands will earn a minimum 30 euro per hour. They should negotiate more, based on their "experience and expertise" or on the "heaviness" of the work. Photographers will be paid for a minimum of two hours per job.

There will be standardised rates for freelances working on all titles in the media group. The minimum hourly rate is 167 per cent of the hourly rate for staff journalists in the same group. This reflecting extra costs to the freelance that include insurance, considerable social security contributions, pension contributions and other expenses - and the fact that the freelances are not covered by sick pay. A proportion of the new freelance rate is allocated to paid time off.

These minimum rates for freelances will be index-linked to inflation from the end of 2023, rising every year as rates for staffers do already under an existing collectively-bargained agreement.

Following a vote in mid-June by the NVJ's freelance membership, the deal will take effect from 1 July. Around 92 per cent of those NVJ members who voted were in favour of the Work Code deal.

The agreement follows court cases brought by freelance photographers working for DPG in local newspapers over their pay and conditions.

DPG said it did not want its freelances to compete with their employees on working conditions and added that better payment of freelances will lead to better-quality journalism.

An NVJ press release on its website says that with this deal, DPG was "setting a new standard in the publishing industry".

The deal has its origins in a judgment by an Amsterdam court. The case, brought with the support of the NVJ and photographers' union NVF, was based on the relatively new Auteurscontractenwet (Authors' Contracts Act). This states that remuneration for a commission must be "fair" and if necessary a judge can determine what is fair.

In this case the court ruled that then rates of €0.13 per word and €42 per photo – then paid by the DPG's local newspaper Tubantia and the Brabantse Dagblad to former freelances Britt van Uem and to Ruud Roger were not "fair" in law. The court ordered DPG Media to add 50 per cent to the fees it was then paying to journalists.

DPG has a virtual monopoly on local news titles in much of the Netherlands - and, again, many titles in Belgium. While the deal affects only freelances in the Netherlands, it is expected to have a beneficial impact on rates for freelances in Dutch-speaking Belgium, some of whom are organised into the Vereniging Vlaams Journalisten (Association of Flemish Journalists).