So I was asked to be on this panel about building alliances which mostly came about because I had previously contacted IPEd with ideas about how IPEd and MEAA could collaborate.
The panel consisted of myself, representing all things MEAA, Juliet Rogers of the ASA, Sherrey Quinn from ANZSI, Queensland Writers Centre’s CEO Katie Woods and the Rosanna Arciuli from the Copyright Agency.
In a nutshell we definitely agreed on several points:
- It was vital for us to band together on several big theme issues because there was power in numbers no matter which organisation spearheaded the issue and campaign.
- Such big theme issues that we cared about were copyright issues and PIRs amongst other things.
- Other issues were centered around pay and working conditions for freelancers and diversity within the industry in both editors and authors published.
- We also agreed that it was worth creating some sort of alliance so that members could learn from each other across oganisational lines but also so that no one reinvented the wheel when it came to professional development because resources could be shared.
- We wanted some sort of practical action to start happening.
Karen Lee, IPEd’s CEO, pointed out that the new structure and her strategic plan meant that she had to ensure that practical action started occurring because she had targets that she had to meet by doing so.
I would like to make some points here that I did not get to make due to a lack of time during the session itself:
- Do not stress that practical action is not being taken if you aren’t immediately or constantly informed of it. At this stage all this involves a lot of discussions with various people in each organisation to figure out what can be achieved and how and then how quickly and what resources are needed. Until specific plans are put in place to achieve the goals we set ourselves after discussion, it is mostly all going to happen behind the scenes. For example, if I have an idea during NFC (National Freelance Committee) I go ahead and chat to them about it, we come up with a plan and then I go back and tell freelancers, ok this is what is happening.
- Most of this stuff will involve for the most part various commitees and sub-committees getting together and working out plans of action. This involves people volunteering their time and energy to be on such committees and help out. When said plans are ready, then they will be explained to members so that members can do whatever is required to move them forward if needed, such as signing petitions or things like that. That is generally how these things work and if you want to be in the know, the best way to do so is to involve oneself in a committee. This is the only way I find out anything before a sudden campaign launch email turns up in my inbox. It’s the only way I also ensure plans are logical and that the pathway to said goal makes sense.
And since many of you asked inbetween panels and sessions, here’s some info on MEAA to help you all out with general union related queries:
- MEAA is an union with several sections: Media, Equity, ECS, Musos and so on and as editors you fall under Media at the moment.
- You can only join one union at a time. IF you feel your current union does a good job of representing you when going through negotiations or enterprise bargaining agreements or gives you good advice about contracts and other things etc, THEN stay with your current union, whatever it may be. IF NOT, THEN consider MEAA as an option to switch to.
- Your workplace cannot and should not dictate which union you get to belong to. You get to choose. Choose one to suit not your role title but to suit the work you do in your role – a union that understands what the nature of your job is like and what it may require. Interview various unions – call and ask them if you need to.
- You also do not NEED to join an union. It is entirely up to you and I will never ask you to join MEAA.
- MEAA used to have a reciprocal fee arrangement with the different Editor Societies and we need to rejig that again with IPEd post transition so perhaps hold off for awhile till we sort these things out. The prior agreement was taking the IPEd fee out of the MEAA fee.
- MEAA’s Media section fee structure is based on your income for the year. At the lowest level, the least I have paid was $300 or so but there is a nifty calculator on the MEAA website that allows you to work out what you would pay in fees.
- MEAA’s freelance rates card was created by taking into account what mid level career journalists would make in-house in 2012 and making a freelancer version of that level. It’s not for entry level, it does not always seem plausible and I, personally, think that $150 per hour for an editor is more likely in the ballpark than $215 but also feel it needs more finessing to figure out an easier means of recommending a rate. I do however agree with a rate per word of between $0.60 and $1 per word for writers – this is viable and should be adhered to as much as possible. As I said at the AGM plenary and the panel session, MEAA has said to me that they want to revisit and update the rates card and I think this is something that IPEd should collaborate and offer input on.
- The Book Industry Award as I understand it was created in collaboration with MEAA in the distant past, put forward to Fair Work through whatever due process was required and is now on the Fair Work website who handles it. MEAA merely has a copy of it under Member Resources on their website but does not have any dealings as far as I know with updating it. I would like to know if it is perhaps time to revisit the award and check if it is relevant to pay rates and conditions in 2017.
- MEAA is focusing on freelancers in its strategic plan for the next two years. I would like to include editors in that by representing them at NFC and Federal Council and National Media Section. To do this, I need to consult with IPEd. I also know that there are members of IPEd who are currently MEAA members so if they can let me know any specific issues and concerns they have that MEAA can fix or help with, then I can ensure that happens. There may be issues that are specific to editors only, there maybe issues that MEAA is already tackling on behalf of freelancers that happens to be relevant to editors too.
- MEAA has a Freelance Pro option – basically that means that you can just join as a member, freelance or not, and access all the usual benefits but if you want public liability and professional indemnity insurance, then you can add a little extra on top of your fee and get designated as a Freelance Pro member and get the insurance. It will require you to spend an extra $250 or so every five odd years to attend a media law class to keep the insurance but this may be waived for editors so let me go verify that with someone and get back to you. But if you see Freelance Pro anywhere, that’s what that means. You can however just join as a member and be designated a freelancer and not pay anything extra – you don’t miss out on any benefits, don’t worry.
Things to start with that I think we can start collaborating on (I did say I had a list):
- Reciprocal fee agreement or an agreement on alliances.
- Revising recommended pay rates together because even if we can’t set a legally required pay rate, minimum or otherwise, just yet, then at least all the organisations have the same information on recommended pay rates when clients find them on Google. We have already agreed to set up a group to look into this and I will discuss with MEAA and see how best to proceed.
- Sharing resources particularly resources on freelancing, finances, negotiation techniques, promotion, technology, marketing and other business related topics.
- Promotion of members and services across organisations.
- Allowing for cross-organisation advocacy or resources to train people to do so or provide information they need.
- Creation of Josephine Brown’s amazing idea for an Editor’s Week.
- Forming a coalition/alliance/bloc to work on big issues together. Allowing members to access resources from organisations across the bloc as needed perhaps.
- Revisiting the Book Industry Award to see if it is relevant.
- Conducting several surveys into pay rates, work details and mental health conditions across IPEd members and MEAA members to see if award conditions and rates are being adhered to and if there are gender or race based gaps present in terms of wages and conditions.
- Working on means to encourage and include diversity in both media and publishing sectors in terms of who is published and who is working.
- Creating guidelines like the MEAA’s Code of Ethics for how editors should think about and treat diverse people in their work practices and offering training and assistance where needed to understand how to avoid unintentional appropriation, ableism, sexism and racism.
NOTE: Not all these ideas may be workable and even if they are, some may take some time to put together and get going. But they are a start I think. We have a lot to discuss.
- If you have an idea for collaborating between IPEd and another organisation, please leave it in the comments below. Let’s start discussing what we can do.
- If you are both a MEAA and an IPEd member AND happen to be a freelancer, I would like to invite you to join the National Freelance Committee (it’s just email and Skype) and help me make sure that the editors’ concerns are included in whatever we do.
- IF you have questions, consider me your MEAA rep for editors and email me. Or leave a comment. Seriously. I can help sort things out for you or get in touch with people who can help you.