The papers may be Nine but the minimum rates are zero
The next time you read an article from The Age or the Sydney Morning Herald, have a look at the name attached to the piece. They may well be one of the freelancers who haven’t had an increase to their pay rates in 20 years.
Back in 2020, workers at Nine Publishing agreed to a freeze in wage increases as a way of showing their loyalty to the company through the pandemic.
Fast forward to 2022 and Nine management have only offered a pay increase of 3.5 per cent to staff. Freelancers do not even have a minimum rate of pay.
But with Nine reporting a 53 per cent increase to its publishing profits for the year, members of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) decided it was well and truly time for workers to have a fair share.
Freelancers left in freefall
No job security. No minimum rates of pay. Next to non-existent superannuation. The life of a freelancer at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Australian Financial Review, Brisbane Times or WA Today is not glamorous.
The MEAA released last year ‘The state of freelance journalism in Australia’ – a report that revealed the dire consequences for freelancers who have been forced to operate without the safety net of workplace rights.
One of the freelancer survey respondents summed up the type of situation many freelancers find themselves in at Nine.
“I’m asked weekly to work for free or at a rate where I would earn more at McDonald’s,” the female freelancer from NSW said.
“I worked for a decade in the 2000s as a freelancer, I left when the screws were being tightened by accounts and HR departments. I attempted re-entering this year. It has been a ridiculous, time-sapping bureaucratic worthless experience.”
“For every commission I have spent countless hours, signing on, and chasing payment. It sucks,” she said.
Workers in unions bargain for better wages
The main reason why pay is so poor at Nine is our current bargaining system in Australia has failed both staff and freelancers.
The system does not work for a sector where workers move from gig to gig and employer to employer. Freelancers are not even recognised as employees and are shut out of collective bargaining all together.
In media, where journalism work is steadily moving away from traditional employment models, freelancers do not benefit from the gains won by journalists over decades through bargaining.
We need a system of bargaining that recognises how the media industry works to ensure workers’ wages allow them to sustain a career in journalism.
If we had a bargaining system that kept pace with our modern workplaces, all workers – not just those at Nine – would benefit from the higher pay.
If you’re not yet a union member, join with almost two million workers today and help drive the positive change we need for all workers.