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CMG Freelance… a number of pots bubbling away

Guild freelancers have been busy in 2012 working to make concrete improvements for media freelancers. We’ve participated in events in Vancouver and Toronto aimed at bringing freelancers together to identify major problems and ways to solve them collectively. We’ve been in ongoing discussions with two major engagers – CBC and Toronto Star – to improve contracts for freelancers (see more below). We’re building alliances with freelance organizations – Canadian Writers Group, Writers Coalition (and their great group benefits program for freelancers), the Professional Writers Association of Canada and Canadian University Press). And, for a second year, we’ve backed Story Board, the most important Canadian news and discussion site for freelancers.

Negotiations with CBC
The Guild’s freelance executive has been in regular negotiations with the CBC with a view to improving the provisions in the collective agreement related to freelancers. We have made progress on simplifying the different ways freelance contributors are contracted to better reflect the kind of work we are doing, the content we are delivering and the platform on which it is delivered.

We are also pursuing ways to reflect experience of the freelancer in the rate minimums and are actively engaged in discussing compensation for ‘new media’ assignments which may include concepts such as ‘live blogging’ and ‘tweeting’.  If you have been contracted as a freelance contributor for any of these assignments we’d like to hear about your experience. Email Branch President Don Genova at freelance@cmg.ca. After staff reductions and yet an increased desire on the Corporation’s part for more original programming, especially in new bureaus in smaller locations or population hubs around the country (such as Hamilton), there may be increased reliance on freelancers and we’re working hard to make sure freelancers aren’t working on spec or submitting completed content with no promise of payment.

Guild proposes fixes to Toronto Star freelance contract
A group of freelancers has been meeting with Toronto Star management for 18 months to push for changes to a contract the paper unilaterally imposed on freelancers in July 2011. At no time has the Star given us an answer on what they plan to do to fix the contract. In our last face-to-face meeting in late August, they promised an answer at the end of September, which was delayed to the end of November. Finally, in a conversation between TorStar legal counsel and the Guild, the union proposed to send some contract language to address freelancers’ concerns. This proposed language was submitted on November 26 and we are now awaiting a reply. Our proposals include:

– putting a term on the contract, which is now indefinite
– guaranteeing a kill fee if a freelancer submitted work that the Star chose not to publish
– payment for third-party use and syndication of a freelancer’s work
– compensation for e-books
– confirming the Star would defend a libel action against the freelancer’s work
– excluding books, TV and films from the rights being purchased by the Star
– confirming that the Star cannot change the character of the freelancer’s work when it edits the piece for publication.

Earlier this year, the Guild submitted a letter to the Star signed by nearly 50 freelancers expressing concerns about the contract. We continue to collect signatures for the letter. If you would like to consider adding your name, please get in touch with Jean Broughton (jean@cmg.ca).

Don’t forget to visit www.thestoryboard.ca regularly for news and discussion of freelance issues.

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