Some progress for Toronto Star freelancers
At a meeting last week with a coalition of freelancers, Toronto Star management confirmed that it has removed a clause from the contract for contributors to the Grid. The clause was intended to shield the publication from libel, placing more responsibility on the freelancer. The coalition, including members of the Canadian Media Guild, the Canadian Writers Group and the Professional Writers Association of Canada, had raised concerns about the libel clause at previous meetings.
“Given that the most senior editors at The Grid, Star Content Studios, and the Toronto Star, including editor-in-chief Michael Cooke, all attended Tuesday’s meeting, it was clear that resolving issues related to their freelance agreement is a priority,” says Derek Finkle.
The coalition also raised other concerns about the blanket contract the company has been imposing on freelancers before giving them any assignments. Among the issues the group discussed were:
- the fact that the blanket contract has no end date
- the lack of control over their work and compensation for freelancers whose work is syndicated to Star affiliates (eg. Moneyville or Hamilton Spectator) and to third parties,
- the fact that the contract gives the Toronto Star the use of the work in all genres and platforms – such as feature films, TV series and books – both in the present and in the future,
- kill fees.
The company has committed that it will come back to the freelance group between the middle and end of September with proposals to resolve some of the key concerns.
“One of our main messages has been that there is another, perhaps more productive, way of doing business than just imposing contracts unilaterally on freelancers,” says Arnold Amber, a member of the CMG’s freelance branch.
“Discussing the issues in detail with the Toronto Star team has raised my optimism for a stronger and healthier relationship between their publications and those of us who produce content for a living,” says Suzanne Bowness, a member of PWAC’s Toronto executive who attended the meeting with Star management.
The freelance coalition was formed last year to address concerns about the Star’s freelance contract. For more information, get in touch with Jean Broughton at firstname.lastname@example.org.