TUC Congress notes that inflation is impoverishing the entire British labour force. Freelance workers, however, are hit worst of all.
Congress further notes that in the UK the number of self-employed workers has increased by approximately 25 per cent since the year 2000 to around 4.2 million.
This growth makes it all the more vital that this category of worker is treated with respect, decency and fair pay – not least to prevent them becoming an easy substitute for employees across all sectors of the economy.
i. growing poverty and inequality in the UK, as a result of austerity policies in recent years and cuts in funding to the benefits system before and after Covid, has directly affected those working in the creative industries
ii. many people working in the creative industries are self-employed, often because the work is seasonal, intermittent and/or project-led
iii. in a recent survey more than two-thirds of self-employed workers in the UK were without a regular income and more than half of self-employed workers said they relied on personal savings when not working
iv. self-employed workers are often unaware of the right to join an appropriate union
v. the number of self-employed workers in the UK was officially 4.1 million in 2021
vi. many self-employed workers work long hours, meaning they often work for below the recommended minimum wage, in inappropriate or unsafe situations
vii. many self-employed workers have no sick pay, no paid holidays and no ability to provide for parental leave.
viii. disabled self-employed workers have greater difficulty getting access to work grants.
In the media sector, rates paid by most news platforms have stagnated or fallen over the past decade. On some publications – the Radio Times, for example – rates have not changed in a decade. The Daily Telegraph has cut pay to features contributors by almost 30 per cent over the past 15 years. The Sunday Times has more than once imposed across-the-board reductions in freelance rates. The pattern is common to almost the entire UK news media.
The TUC notes that unlike employees, freelance workers do not have a statutory right to trades union recognition.
Congress instructs the General Council to highlight the plight of freelance workers in its wage campaigning and, in particular, to call out the hypocrisy of news platforms that call for the decent treatment of workers, while financially abusing those freelancers they engage.
Congress calls on the General Council to consult with all relevant unions on how to mobilise, represent and lobby on behalf of self-employed workers, including developing proposals and campaigning for better protections under employment law.
Mover: National Union of Journalists
Seconder: Artists’ Union England