Workplace Report October 2008

Recruitment and organisation news

Representation for freelancers

Freelance production workers have notched up what their union calls a “landmark” recognition victory – this time on the BBC flagship show EastEnders.

After a 10-month campaign, broadcast union BECTU has achieved recognition for 140 freelancers on the show after 62% of them voted for recognition in a ballot overseen by arbitration service ACAS. The union acknowledged the co-operation of BBC management, who had earlier agreed to recognise the union voluntarily so long as BECTU could demonstrate majority support.

It follows recognition deals achieved by BECTU on The Bill and at BBC Resources, BBC Scotland and the BBC Natural History Unit.

BECTU national official, Spencer MacDonald, said the news “marks a new beginning for freelancers on EastEnders. After many difficult years of standstill pay and the low morale which that brings, freelancers can now negotiate with their employer to secure the improvements they deserve.”

Freelancers also celebrated a ground-breaking commitment by the Irish government as part of the proposed national partnership agreement to bring in a new law giving them the right to collective representation by trade unions (see also European news).

The law, if the national pact is accepted in a ballot of all unions next month, will exempt voice-over actors, freelance journalists and session musicians from the provisions of the Competition Act. Currently the Irish Competition Authority views freelancers as “business undertakings” and this interpretation has prevented unions from representing them collectively.