Perth Diary Articles

Perth Diary: 11/10/2009

Hi everyone,

The latest edition of the Perth Diary column is up at The Sunday Leader newspaper’s website, if you want to read it there. Or you can read it in its’ entire glory here after the jump. I have decided that anything I write for free will be featured in full on the website whereas anything I get paid for will have an excerpt and a link to the full article wherever else it is published. About time I came up with an editorial policy of my own. Since I update this blog after The Sunday Leader publishes the column online, they technically get first online publication rights so I am not doing anything awful. Plus, I retain copyright.

Anyway, click to see the article.

A union that does wonders for you

I joined my union. My mother wanted to know if this meant that I would be out picketing. She seems to think that protesting and picketing would lose me my job. If I had one in the corporate world in the first place.

The union for reporters, editors, actors and basically anyone who informs, entertains or works within the media industry in Australia is called the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. MEAA for short.

The process itself is easy. You sign up online by filling out a form. Name, address, ABN if you freelance and so on. You get put into a category dependent on what specific profession you have. The next day you get an email giving you your membership number and confirmation and the information that they will be debiting the membership fees from your bank account. The fees are very small.

A couple of weeks later, you get mail. There is a big envelope in the post and it contains your membership card which functions as a press pass. There are also forms for the media industry specific superannuation fund, the health insurance company specific to the media industry and brochures that tell you where you can get upto 50 to 70% off anything you buy, just for being a union member.

Protects your rights

So what does the union do? The short answer is that it protects your rights. It sets the standard rate of pay which at last notice was $211 AUD per hour for a freelance editor and $800 AUD per 1000 words for a freelance writer. Basically, I have a right to ask for that rate when I charge people. Whether it is a realistic rate or not is up for debate but I have the right to charge that and to expect it.

If I work for a company that states that they pay “award rates” then that means they have to pay me the rates as MEAA states. If they don’t, I can protest, I can stop work, I can sue the company and I will not be counter sued because it would be my right to expect that rate especially if it has been stated in a contract.

The union also gives its members access to financial planners and lawyers at discounted rates. Members of a union get a huge financial burden eased through the shopping discounts, the industry specific funds, insurance and so on. It makes life that little bit easier.

The union also protects other rights. It makes sure that you are aware of media ethics such as not filming children, only filming on private property with permission and the right to not name sources. It keeps you up to date on the media news — right now, for instance, there is a discussion on how to manage media access to government documents and data.

Happy with my union

In fact, I am pretty happy with my union. They have given me my press pass, they send me potential jobs in the industry, they keep informed of my rights, ethical and industrial news, and they try to find me deals and discounts on important services and goods. They even organised a WA specific day out for all the members and they played cricket. The union so far has been very good to me.

So if my or another member’s rights are threatened and we have to stop work, then I don’t mind doing so. It’s part of my duty as a member and legally I cannot get fired. Employers expect me to stop work if the union tells me to till negotiations are complete.

At least over here, unlike back home, I don’t have to worry about protesting, stopping work, and picketing without being unfairly dismissed or on the odd occasion of public protest, being tear gassed in the street.

— Marisa Wikramanayake

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.

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