European Federation of Journalists

Highlights of EFJ Freelance Expert Group (FREG) meeting

On 19 November, the EFJ organised its biannual Freelance Experts’ Group (FREG) meeting, in which participants from 8 European countries discussed EFJ activities, national developments regarding freelance activities and ideas for the  future working programme to be adopted by next year’s EFJ General Meeting. Below is a snap shot of the main topics debated by the participants.

EFJ issues & activities

  1. Results of the survey “Mapping Freelance Journalists” : Please click HERE for more information.
  2. The Rights and Jobs in Journalism EFJ project debriefing : The Dublin Freelance conference on atypical workers, which was organised in September 2015 by the National union of Journalists, Ireland in cooperation with the EFJ, UNI-MEI, FIM and FIA, concentrated on legal aspects on the conflict of collective bargaining and competition law. The meeting discussed the next EFJ workshop on “Collective bargaining for all” to take place in Ljubljana (Slovenia) on 21-22 March 2016 . It will cover strategies for reaching to freelance workers and achieve equal treatment between freelance and staff journalists. Collective bargaining is an important tool; an improved cooperation between freelancers and employed journalists is becoming ever more important.
  3. The relaunch of the EFJ Charter of Freelance Rights adopted by the Annual Meeting in 2006 for advocacy work, is still valid and should be used, where needed, at national and local level. It exists in 12 languages.The participants analysed how it is used at national level.

Overview on national developments of interest to FREG

  1. NUJ (UK) Report : Two new initiatives have been launched by the  NUJ. Firstly, a Freelance Salon, which has the dual purpose of providing speakers to talk about work opportunities for freelances and also to allow networking, was created. Secondly, the NUJ has offered 100 free training places with Google News Lab, who work with  major publications training them to use Google tools. The NUJ also made  attempts to work with the police and reduce problems faced by photographers at public order events. They created a video that will be screened at all police public order training sessions and viewed by thousands of officers each year. Their campaign against unfair contracts will step up several gears with the collaboration with Creators Rights Alliance that brings a wide range of organisations representing creators – writers, musicians, illustrators, composers, photographers.
  2. NJ (Norway) Report : During its biannual congress in March, the Norwegian Union of Journalists decided to allow all professionals working as journalists into NJ membership, even when working only part-time as journalist. Freelancers have also been fully integrated to local union branches (and the dedicated resources increased). The NJ has put emphasis on including freelance issues in their next major collective bargaining. The NJ is planning a survey on freelance economy and conditions early next year. Meanwhile, a new online version of their Freelance Calculator is close to being tested.
  3. SDJ (Portuguese) Report Sindicato dos Jornalistas initiated a freelance campaign in May/June 2015 with an online questionnaire on the situation of freelance journalists in Portugal. It was the first survey on this subject since 2001! As 98,7% of their online questionnaire’ respondents considered useful to initiate a campaign in newsrooms to promote freelancers’ rights and to raise awareness from staff journalists towards freelances’ difficulties, the Portuguese union is trying to find out the better way to perform this campaign. The Portuguese union detected a big gap between Portugal and the other European countries regarding the public image of freelancers seen “as second class journalists” inside newsrooms. The Portuguese union is also negotiating with the main employers’ organisation a Collective Labour Agreement that for the first time may include an addendum with some regulatory standards for freelancers.
  4. GPA-djp (Austria) report : The Austrian union GPA-djp started a petition for higher fees for freelancers which nearly 300 employed and freelance journalists signed. The GPA-djp interest group for freelancers, work@flex, launched two websites, where trainees and freelancers can confront companies with their responsibilities.  They also work on informing the medical insurance company about employers who engage “fake-freelancers”. In 2015, the Austrian union has prolonged with qualitative guided interviews an online study launched in May 2014 focusing on the freelancer’s working and payment conditions. The surveys show precarious working conditions and a new high presence of female freelance journalists. The union is preparing a “Freelance Day” with workshops on social security, collective bargaining, calculation.   
  5. DJV (Germany) Report : After a series of negotiation meetings, German unions DJV and  dju in ver.di achieved major improvements for the contracts of press photographers.The fees ” for ALL press photographers” will be raised “approx. 2,5 %” on January 1, 2016. DJV also negotiated a change of the general contract for freelances at ZVA Aachner Zeitung / Nachrichten. Originally, the newspaper had issued a buy out contract. Freelancers could keep their authors´ rights but they could not  negotiate better fees. The DJV noted two recent fall-backs: the   international broadcaster Deutsche Welle decided unilaterally to not apply the general freelance contract to certain freelance trainers and the Berlin newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel, decided in October to stop working with freelancers until the end of the year at least. They cancelled all collaborations with freelancers.
  6. BAJ (Belarus) ReportAndrus Klikunou explained the challenges and media situation after the elections in Belarus. Ahead of the Presidential elections, trials against freelance journalist and the repressive regime were suspended temporarily. “Thanks to EFJ and FREG, the situation of freelance journalists has improved slightly“, said Klikunou. He also praised the EFJ Charter of Freelance Rights which was useful for its advocacy work. The EFJ has sent recently a letter to the President of Belarus demanding the recognition of freelance journalists in its national law.


Photo: Renate Schroeder, EFJ