European Federation of Journalists

Sweden: Demonstration for higher freelance fees at daily newspaper

Credits: SJF

This article first featured on the Swedish Journalist union website

Some 50 freelance writers at Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) have long been in negotiations with management about their fees. A demonstration supported by the Swedish Union of Journalists was held on Friday 8 December outside SvD in Stockholm following the break-down of negotiations, which had started in the spring of 2023.

No significant increase in 20 years

In addition to a symbolic adjustment in the spring, SvD’s freelancers emphasised in the negotiations that they have not received a significant increase in over twenty years and that they therefore earn less than freelancers did in the early 2000s. In comparison, employees at SvD have had wage increases of over 25 per cent in the last ten years.

In addition, there is no agreement on annual increases for freelancers at SvD, which is why the fees have in practice fallen year after year. According to the Swedish Union of Journalists freelance calculator, where freelance fees can be converted to the equivalent of an employee’s salary, the fee for a full-time critic for SvD currently corresponds to SEK 11,000 (roughly €900) per month before tax.

Cultural material attracts subscribers

In an interview with SvD’s new editor-in-chief Lisa Irenius, published in SvD on 2 December 2023, cultural journalism is particularly highlighted in the text as important for the newspaper:

“For a long time, the industry saw cultural journalism as the financially draining branch. Today, the tone is different for SvD. Cultural material that has attracted subscribers in recent years.”

Despite this, SvD pays its cultural writers the lowest fees among all major daily newspapers. At Schibsted-owned Aftonbladet, the fee for comparable articles is almost twice as high. At the same time, the critics’ workload has increased as SvD removed the position of literary editor, which is now expected to be carried out half-time by a freelancer without access to the newspaper’s premises.

Demonstration for better conditions for freelancers

A demonstration was planned to draw attention to the situation of freelance writers. 

The demonstration was held on Friday the 8th December outside the main entrance of Svenska Dagbladet in Stockholm. The management of SvD was invited to attend to answer questions and talk about the newspaper’s freelance fees, which was offered to the board but not accepted. The freelancers brought a cake with the frosting saying “We are celebrating 20 years with the same fees”. 

The editor-in-chief Lisa Irenius stopped by the demonstration and said she wanted to continue negotiations further on. 

Both Ulrika Hyllert, President of the Swedish Union of Journalists, and Grethe Rottböll, President of the Swedish Writers’ Association, among around 20 other participants, were present at the demonstration.