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Payment chaos at Scotsman Publications

29 January 2001 - EPUK

Cash crisis looms for photographers working for the Edinburgh-based titles

In the first month of its new self-billing payments system, nearly every photographer who is owed money by The Scotsman Publications Limited (TSPL) has either received no payment, or no remittance advice. Despite Scotsman Publications promises that the system would be “hit the ground running and be 99 per cent effective”, a survey of photographers reveals a system is in chaos.

The new system is intended to streamline payments to photographers. Rather than contributors having to raise invoices, TSPL is supposed to calculate what each photographer is owed, make the payment by bank transfer and send remittance advice showing what payments have been made. The remittance advice allows each photographer to check that payment has been made for each picture used. It is also of critical importance for those contributors who are registered for VAT as it shows the amount of VAT payable.

Scottish Newspapers Association of Photographers (SNAP) and the National Union of Journalists surveyed 15 photographers, chosen at random from those known to do work for TSPL titles. Each was asked about the payment and advice they had received for work undertaken between 1 December 2000 and 31 December 2000. Payment for work in this period should have been made on 15 January 2001.

Of those surveyed on 28 January, none had received both the correct payment and remittance advice. Four had received no payment at all, and further three were underpaid – sums outstanding range between £1,000 and £3,500.

Tim Dawson, chair of the NUJ’s freelance industrial council told EPUK: “The level of complaints and requests for help I have received from photographers who have not been paid, or not received the correct pay from The Scotsman is unprecedented. There is no question that some photographers have already decided to stop working for TSPL because of the current situation. Unless urgent steps are taken to improve matters, the papers will soon struggle to attract any competent photographers to work for them.’

One photographer said: “The amount of time I have to spend chasing up money owed to me is ridiculous. It is all very well going into the accounts department to “sort things out” but we have got to the point where it is scarcely worth doing the work for the amount of time I waste getting paid properly. If we were as sloppy at getting our work to the paper as it is about paying us, The Scotsman would come out without a single photograph.”

The survey also showed that some photographers have been allowed to opt out of the self-billing system and continue to issue invoices. Until such time as the system is shown to be working the NUJ recommends that other photographers do the same.

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