EFJ calls for stronger rights for freelance workers

Photo of Panel 1 with Seamus Dooley Irish Secretary National Union of Journalists speaking

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have called for stronger rights for freelance workers and the need to enforce their fundamental rights to collective bargaining in national and European legislations.

The call came after a workshop hosted by the NUJ on Collective bargaining for atypical workers in the audio-visual and live performance sector as part of a capacity building project organised by the EFJ, the International Federation of Actors (FIA), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and UNI-MEl.

Participants including unions leaders from the-above federations and legal experts in the workshop have highlighted the fact that freelance workers in the sector do not receive equal rights and treatments when it comes to collective bargaining and their social rights. Karen Curtis, the Deputy Director International Labour Organisation (ILO) re-affirmed the fundamental rights to collective bargaining and associations of freelance workers according to the international labour standards. Curtis reminded that national governments who rectify the ILO convention to ensure the full compliance of labour standards and the need to ensure that competition legislation does not obstruct the rights of atypical workers to freedom of association.

The workshop has discussed various national cases where national competition law restrict the rights of atypical workers to collective bargaining. NUJ has called on the Irish government to honour commitments made in the national social partnership agreement Towards 2016 to provide greater protection for workers in the media and cultural sectors, including freelance journalists, actors and musicians, by amending competition law in Ireland.

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley and NUJ joint-president Andy Smith have used the event as an opportunity to condemn the failure of successive Irish governments to address the situation created by a decision of the Competition Authority of Ireland to treat freelance workers as business undertakings and therefore outside the scope of industry. Séamus Dooley said the Irish government is in clear breach of the International Labour Relations (ILO) convention and it has shown scant regard for the ILO.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) general secretary Patricia King addressed the conference and confirmed ICTU fully supports the joint campaign by SIPTU and the NUJ to improve employment rights for freelance workers.

Andy Smith, NUJ joint-president, said:

“The imposition of self-employed contracts is a trend reported by our members across all sectors of the media industry in the UK and Ireland. It is a practice which is widespread across Europe. Any discussion on collective bargaining for atypical workers cannot ignore the tendency to force employees to accept contracts for service which compel them to declare themselves as self-employed – a means of forcing a worker to sign away their own employment rights and social protections.

“The exclusion of atypical workers from any form of collective trade union voice is a clear incentive to employers to promote bogus self-employed contracts – these issues are two sides of the same coin, a coin which should have no currency in Europe.”

The workshop concluded the need to form a broader coalition to push for real changes in national and European legislations to recognise the rights of atypical workers in order to adapt to the changing labour markets in the sector.

(Picture: from the left: Yuk Lan Wong (EFJ), Andy Smith (NUJ), Séamus Dooley (NUJ), Gerry Curran (NUJ) and Patricia King (ICTU) speaking at the panel.)
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