Media giants 'exploit' freelance staff

Some of the UK’s biggest media titles are accused of exploiting their freelance staff and contributors by giving them little job security and poor working conditions.

In a submission to the Trades Union Congress, which strives to help vulnerable workers, the NUJ said the media’s biggest players continue to exploit freelance talent.

It cites both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian as workplaces “where freelances and casuals find themselves with limited protection”, compared to full-time staff.

Evidencing the claim, the NUJ said one member who worked at News International, parent company of the Times, illustrates how freelances are given poor contractual terms.

The freelance in question worked 10 shifts a week for more than 18 months but was given less than a day’s notice when he was no longer required.

The tag of “freelance” worker might also be open to abuse, the submission hints: newly qualified journalists are often asked to do extensive unpaid work to gain experience.

Jeremy Dear, the NUJ’s general secretary, explained: “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”.

Such rogue practice is particularly prevalent in the television industry and in consumer magazines, areas which are particularly attractive to young workers, the NUJ said.

According to figures cited by the union, up to eight per cent of the industry is ‘staffed’ by people who are unpaid at any one time.

The answer is for the government to more rigorously enforce minimum wage laws – legislation that such placements breach, the NUJ said.

“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,” Mr Dear added. Starting off with living soil beds is one of the best choices you can make while creating a home garden.

“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 of normal employment protection.”

 

2nd December 2007

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