Saturday, October 03, 2009



As the following article from the online newsmagazine Straight Goods says, "income and working conditions for independent writers, photographers and editors have declines dramatically over the past 30 years". In response such workers are beginning to organize into the Canadian Freelance Union, Local 2040 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. The founding convention is being held as we speak, all via the internet. Check out the union's website for more details. Here's the story from Straight Goods.

Freelancers of Canada, unite!:
Canadian Freelance Union holds inaugural meeting online across the country.
from the Canadian Freelance Union
OTTAWA, ON, September 30, 2009 — ­ The Canadian Freelance Union's inaugural meeting of members will take place October 3, 2009. Charter Members from across the country will come together via webcast and online forums to take part in this historic event. The CFU is a new union for all independent communications professionals, be they freelance journalists, photographers, editors, online writers and web designers.

"The CFU is a new kind of union for the digital age," says Michael O'Reilly, CFU interim President. "We're harnessing online tools to organize our members, and to deliver the services they need."

Income and working conditions for independent writers, photographers and editors have declined dramatically over the past 30 years.

As a member of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the CFU (CEP Local 2040) is organizing independent communications professionals into North America's first trade union for freelancers. The CEP is committed to building a strong collective voice for media freelancers and other independent communication professionals.

"The CEP is using our collective strength to help improve the working environment of all independent communications workers," says Peter Murdoch, CEP Vice-President (Media). "All workers, be they freelancers or staff, deserve to be treated with dignity and to receive fair compensation for their efforts. This is what the CFU is all about."

Income and working conditions for independent writers, photographers and editors have declined dramatically over the past 30 years. When factored for inflation, the typical freelancer now makes 35 percent of what they did three decades ago.

"It's like living on a fixed income for thirty years. Imagine living on the same amount you were getting paid in 1979. That's the reality of today's working freelancer," says O'Reilly. "The CFU is working to bring balance back to the negotiating table. We simply want what all workers want: a living wage and reasonable working conditions."

The Canadian Freelance Union is working to bring basic benefits and services to its members.

Over time it will build solidarity so we can begin demanding better rates and improved contracts for all independent communications workers.

In 1979 the average annual income for a freelance writer in Canada was around $25,000. In 1996 the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) conducted a survey on rates. They found the average annual income was about $26,000. In 2006 PWAC released its latest survey results, showing a full 61 percent of freelancers making under $25,000, with nearly 40 percent making less than $10,000. The average income had dropped to $24,000.

But these numbers only show half the picture. Between 1979 to 2009 inflation increased the cost of living by about 185 percent. What cost $1 in 1979 today costs about $2.85. Put another way, the actual buying power of today's freelancer is 65 percent less than what it was thirty years ago.

While rates have dropped, rights demands from publishers have gone way up. Today, a major newspaper chain is demanding that freelancers sign away the worldwide rights their works, "in all media now known or hereafter devised". They demand virtually all print, digital and broadcast rights, all for the paltry sum of a few pennies per word.

Most large publishers use similar contracts. From Rogers, Torstar, and Quebecor, to Canwest, Transcontinental and CTVglobemedia; they demand their contract workers sign over virtually all rights to the work they produce. There is no negotiation. It is 'take it, or leave it.'

Media companies are repackaging, reselling, and repurposing the "content" produced by independent media workers. They are finding new ways to profit from the work freelancers produce, and are ensuring that all the money stays in their own pockets.
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