NUJ launches campaign for freelancers who have 'fallen between the cracks'

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The National Union of Journalists has launched a #ForgottenFreelances campaign calling for a fair deal for the many freelances who have “fallen between the cracks” of the government’s rescue schemes for workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The letter, sent to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlines how many members are unable to get access to financial help while their work has completely dried up and they face real hardship.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “The NUJ is calling on the Chancellor to take urgent action over the many gaps in provision that have left freelances feeling cast aside and forgotten, plunging many into financial crisis.

“Practical support and help now is vital if freelance journalists are to sustain themselves and their families and be in a position to work once the economic shockwaves of lockdown subside and the recovery begins.

“The fault-lines in the industry have left many in precarious positions. Freelances carve out their careers working shifts and on short-term contracts. Now they are being penalised for the way in which the industry employs them.

“Media companies are refusing to furlough PAYE workers, which is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Job Retention Scheme. Freelances must be given real support and the same safety net as other workers.”  

On March 26th, the government announced the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to support self-employed individuals whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus.

One problem has been that some news organisations pay journalists and photographers PAYE although they are not on the staff. Many of these companies have refused to put these people on furlough.  

The union said its freelance office had been “inundated” with pleas for help from other members who had been affected.

“The present crisis has laid bare the precarious nature of the UK media workforce,” the NUJ added. “To make a living, many freelance journalists, photographers, illustrators, editors and PR workers have to juggle a portfolio of jobs, each paid and taxed in different ways.”