Webinar on the Charter of Freelance Rights 5th February 2013

Translated into 12 languages

by now, the Charter of Freelance Rights was drafted by the EFJ Freelance

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

Convention concerning Freedom of Association and

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 "[email protected]"

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

collected contracts

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

become worse.


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

conditions freelances have to live.

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

b) retirement


c) unemployment



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.

Regarding the

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


7. Every

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.