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Trouble at The Scotsman

25 November 2000 - EPUK

Three weeks ago The Scotsman Publications Limited (TSPL), Edinburgh-based publishers of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News called a meeting of all freelance photographers working regularly on shift for the three newspapers.

Whilst this meeting was billed as a chance to discuss the proposed self-billing system set to be introduced from 1st December 2000, we were presented with new terms and conditions, which, it was announced, would come into effect at the same time.

The new proposal, pioneered by Philip Thorp, was a small increase in shift rates for the three newspapers, but significantly payment of these shift rates would include TSPL usage for ever across all three papers, and presumably, any other newspapers that might be acquired by the TSPL group. An offer for the rights to pictures already taken for TSPL and held in their archive was made: this figure was to be equivalent to the previos years reproduction payments. As these rates ranged from £25-£49, with many freelancers regularly receiving £12 for repro use, and one of the three newspapers did not pay reproduction payments automatically, this offer was firmly declined.

The poor nature of this initial offer was emphasised by calculations made shortly after the meeting. Taking into account inflation, the new deal offered just a 13p increase on the pay rate of The Scotsman whilst asking for full reproduction rights for the group until copyright expired. Indeed the Scotsman offer was worse for those photographers not yet using digital: film and processing were included in the £120/day shift rate, as was the first 50 miles of travel.

It is also worth remembering that since the last pay increase, The Scotsman has increased sales by a third to around 104,000 through a relaunch, a price cut to initially 20p later rising to 30p, and an aggressive marketing campaign. For the first time in recent history, it now sells more copies that the traditionally dominant Glasgow Herald, and is now officially classified as a UK national newspaper.

The nature of this offer, and the realisation that the five group picture editors had little understanding of the market value of our work, had the immediate effect of uniting the group, later formalised into SNAP – Scottish Newspapers Association of Photographers. The group, initially comprising a handful of Edinburgh and Glasgow based photographers, has grown in size to around eighty at the time of writing, and is expected to have over 100 members by the TSPL deadline of 1st December 2000.

The outcome of the meeting, and the overwhelmingly negative response to it led the Scotsman to offer to conduct further negotiations with freelancers, and in particular through a NUJ representative. We were then asked to gather our thoughts and return our reply with a view of negotiating. An NUJ representative met with Philip Thorp to say that the original proposal had to be improved and suggesting ways as to how this might be achieved. It was then agreed that TSPL would meet SNAP representatives to reach a satisfactory compromise.

However, TSPL broke off negotiations throught the NUJ and called a meeting where, according to one picture editor, a “take it or leave it” deal would be presented. The meeting was called with two days notice for Thursday 24th November and set for 2pm – arguably one of the worst times for a freelancer to set aside.

Infuriated by these tactics SNAP met to discuss how they might best express their anger at this deliberate snub to the group representatives, and their indignation at the “take it or leave it” deal. Not a single photographer attended the proposal meeting. Instead, the group was jointly represented by the same NUJ representative with whom TSPL had previously refused to negotiate.

This proposal is non-negotiable – “Terms and conditions….will be sent to you next week for your signature”. Without a signature, we no longer work for any of the papers.

But, there is a significant difference between this deal and the original – it no longer applies to just us, it applies to every photographer in the UK who has ever worked for TSPL newspapers in the past, or may do so in the future.

No reproduction fees will be payable by the commissioning paper from ist. It does not include so called “self-generated work” (ie ordered jobs and library pictures produced elsewhere) however and repros will be paid if it appears in any other sister publication – a flat fee of £20 for the Evening News and £40 for the rest regardless of size, cover, front page etc.. It is also applicable to existing stock pictures stored electronically.

We are urging everyone to contact TSPL immediately because it is due to come into effect from December 1st. If you have been commissioned by The Scotsman, your photograph could the reappear on the cover of their flagship magazine for £40.

Furthermore, by working for any TSPL newspaper in the future, by their terms and conditions, they can use any photograph already in their archive free of charge in the original commissioning paper, and for the same £20/£40 repro fee elsewhere, including the magazines. One TSPL staff photographer who worked for the titles for ten years as a freelance prior to taking a contract has been told that he will not be paid repro fees on those pictures again.

You may have seen your full colour picture of the front of a weekend travel supplement and wonder why you haven’t been paid yet? You won’t get paid. Not a penny. It will be free.

Their whole proposal is unworkable from that standpoint alone and it is only right and fair that we seek clarification.

So here’s what you do. Speak to the picture editors, clarify your own situation, and let them know your opinions on the proposed deal.

  • The Scotsman: Alan Macdonald (Pic ed) or Alistair Baird (deputy) 0131 620 8560 (freephone 00 800 0123 0123×8560) Fax no: 0131 620 8516
  • Scotland on Sunday: Clare Rand (Acting Picture Editor) 0131 620 8434 (freephone 00 800 0123 0123×8434)
  • Evening News: Tony Marsh (Picture Editor) 0131 620 8689 (freephone 00 800 0123 0123×8689)
  • The Scotsman Weekend Magazine: Alex Aikman (Picture Editor) 0131 620 8807 (freephone 00 800 0123 0123×8807)
  • Spectrum (Scotland on Sunday magazine): Kayt Turner 0131 620 8487 (freephone 00 800 0123 0123×8487)

then phone the man who came up with this deal

  • Philip Thorp (Special Projects Manager) 0131 620 8799 (freephone 00 800 0123 0123×8799)

It goes without saying that our whole future is at stake. If TSPL succeed, others will follow. Act and act now.

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