Translated into 12 languages
Expert Group in 2003 and finally adopted in 2005 to support freelance journalists. The
original idea was to draft such a Charter that reflects fundamental rights of
freelance journalists in the style of the UN charter. Nevertheless, and this
was agreed upon by all of the over one dozen participants of the webinar, it
remains as valid today as it was 10 years ago.
Having a look at each of the
Charter's main points, all issues were discussed and illustrated with various
examples form different European countries:
1. Every freelance has the right to organize in a
union and by collective work seek to improve the situation for freelances and
other journalists. Freelances and their unions should have the right to offer
services to foster the solidarity among freelances and between freelances and
staff, such as recommendations of fees and collective bargaining. The International Labour Organisation's
Protection of the Right Organise to is a formal ILO convention
that should be implemented by all European countries who have ratified the
2. Every freelance
should have the same professional rights as an employee, the same right to be
treated as a fair partner when negotiating.
The Austrian trade union for all workers in print, journalism and paper-related industries
(GPA-DJP) has bundled their campaigns to
improve freelances' professional rights under the heading "work@flex"
across all fields.
3. Every freelance
has a right to a written contract. Every freelance has the right to be treated
as a fair partner when negotiating. The right to a written
contract seems a basic right, but the discussion showed how difficult this is
to achieve given the often very unequal balance of power between the journalist
and his/her employer (client). Especially in Central and Eastern Europe it
seems impossible to get a written contract before publication as an example
from Poland showed: "In some cases, I have had to sign a contract after publication of my work and of
course emails are some kind of proof but in case of problems, it is always
Fostering the aim of point
three, German unions, for example, offer negotiations trainings (also via
webinars) for freelances to be able to stand their ground in contract talks.
Also, the European Federation of Journalists itself has over a long time
showcasing unfair terms and conditions and to raise awareness for
both newspapers and magazines. It continuously calls upon freelances to send in
further contracts and enrich their database. Since the writing of the Charter
the unfair negotiation relationship between freelance and his/her client has
4. Every freelance has the right
to hers/his author's rights. All freelances must have unwaivable moral rights. Freelances
must have the right to collective bargaining regarding their authors' rights. Tackling the issue of authors'
rights, former chair of the Freelance Expert Group (FREG), Heikki Jokinen and
now member of the EFJ Authors' Rights Expert Group presented the
challenges to protect them and gave an outlook as to what actions could be taken.
These include flat fees for all economic rights of an authors' text, unlimited
rights to modify the content, free right to re-sell work without compensation
of the author and consequently the transferal of all rights from the freelance
to the buyer. He assesses that "we are finally nearing legislation" drawing
from examples in Germany and the Netherlands. However, many a counter-examples
were given. Furthermore, the recent deal brokered
between French publishing houses and Googlewas discussed. The French journalist unions SNJ and SNJ-CGT had criticised that the €60m deal agreed upon would once
again cross over authors.
5. Every freelance has the right to choose the best
suitable form for hers/his way of freelancing. A fake or forced freelance who
is economically dependent should be treated as an employee and will receive all
statutory rights and benefits. It was criticised that authors
rarely have a real right to choose his or her working conditions which all too
often ends up in forced dependencies without viable employee contracts. Thus,
union participants agreed that it must be a key element of freelance support to
promote collective bargaining.
Accordingly, in Austria GPA-DJP
is trying to stop the system of fake journalists and try to get them employed.
The Austrian Broadcasting station, ORF, is paying a third to its freelances of
what staff journalists receive. There is a need to organise around this issue
and a campaign is being launched that shows under what precarious working
There has been a successful
solidarity case at the Austrian press agency APA, where false or fake freelances
who did the same job, earned much less. Thanks to a great solidarity between
staff and freelances, false freelances in the end got a staff contract. Helpful
had been that the health insurances were not happy with the low contributions
paid by freelances who did the same job as their employed colleagues.
But the main reason for this
successful solidarity action was the support of work councils for freelances. They
had included a freelance into the negotiating team.
In Belgium, the issue of fake freelances
was put to the court, but unfortunately with a negative outcome.
In Finland the issue of fake
or economically dependent freelances does not exist.
6. Every freelance
should have the right to equal protection by social security institutions on
equal terms with employees' such as
a) sick pay
maternity/paternity allowance equivalent to a comparable employee
This can be organized
differently according to national circumstances.
On the issue of
sick pay, many various national approaches were presented: In Belgium freelances
are not entitled to sick leave during the first 30 days of leave. It is only
from the 31st day onwards that they are being rewarded sick pay. Freelances
who want an income for the uncovered days have to take out a private insurance.
In comparison, in Denmark freelances in principle have the right to sick pay
but over the past years it has become more and more difficult to get it. The
system requires various steps of procedure depending on the status of the
freelance, that is if he is considered a forced freelance, a freelance
considered an employee or an independent contractor with or without a VAT
number. Freelances who are considered as employees then face the most
challenges as they have to prove that they have been working continuously with
one client for the past 26 weeks. Independent contractors are entitled to sick
pay after 14 days if they have a regular income. A positive outlook was given
through the illustration of an example from Sweden where rest periods recently
were changed for freelances to choose between one, three and 30 days with
higher costs for the shorter period. This legislation change was due to
lobbying and overthrew the previous rule leaving no choice to freelances.
examples were exchanged on the question of maternity leave: in Denmark, freelances
pay €1.50 per month into a common fund out of which they will then be able to
receive remuneration during maternity leave. In detail, they get €117 per week
for 28 weeks and in 2012 eleven mothers and eight fathers received such support. In Austria
female freelances are not entitled to maternity leave at all and currently campaign for change.
question of unemployment cover, comparisons showed that in Finland freelances
are required to set up their own pension schemes and, similarly, Belgian freelances
receive none. Danish freelances can get unemployment allowances but again the
procedures are very bureaucratic and difficult. Independent contractors may
even only receive support if they stop working freelance and sell all their
freelance has the right to equal treatment and to receive decent fees and thus
not undermine the positions of staff through providing cheap work. Voices raised
that the concept of equal treatment though often mentioned in reports by the
European Union, is in reality at local level still difficult to implement. Nevertheless,
there are union campaigns that show when solidarity between staff and freelances exist, equal treatment can be
achieved. The challenges are not easy to overcome and unions in the future will
be judged increasingly by its freelance members for bridging the gap.