By Emma Jayne Park
Where do we go from here?
As someone who has spent the majority of last year in advocacy spaces, ask me this and the answer will vary depending on the day. I swing from hopeless to energised, energised to exhausted and, if I am honest, sometimes I don’t know where the urge to keep trying comes from.
However, what I can say unequivocally is that I believe if we are charting a course to a more positive future, we have to go there together. For me, acts of solidarity are the kindest, most nourishing way to turn the volume up on the freelance voice and, lucky us, we make up the majority of the workforce in our industry so if we want to, volume is something we can generate easily.
Because of that, I am really excited about FMTW’s latest campaign.
A simple series of statements telling the industry what the freelance bottom line is.
It’s not a best practice document that can be filed, forgotten and used in defence against poor practices that exclude those who don’t fit a normative framework. It’s not problem solving at a huge level. It’s a series of simple, easy to accomplish requests that can be implemented with immediacy.
The process is simple. Freelancers anonymously submit their stories of poor practice, we collate and recycle into collective statements that clearly state our baseline expectations as a workforce. We flood social media with them until they are heard.
To some this may seem like a pointless task, however in a world that has spent a year unproducing, producing and re-producing as well as trying to understand what is happening, often with limited teams - sometimes the simplest message is best. Not to mention that collective action empowers us all; it shows us we are not alone, that we when we stand together we can effect change and reminds us that we are part of a community of workers.
Recently, on the turn of the new financial year I Tweeted some pay data research, largely because I’m sick of being told that £100 day rates translate to a great annual income. Even if I were paid £100 five days a week, 48 weeks per year it would only equate to £24,000 - which is around 20% less than the national average wage. Not to mention the very simple fact that as a freelancer, I am not paid for every day I work. Nowhere near!!! This message gained traction.
And so, this simple sharing of data, with a request that day rates be adjusted accordingly resulted in two Artist Directors contacting me directly to state that they had increased the freelance day rate to £200 from now on.
This hasn’t changed the world, but it has changed a small part of the world for a small group of people. There are huge changes required but this doesn’t mean tiny changes don’t have an impact. And, at a time when hope can be a scarce resource, it feels powerful to do something even if the results are tiny. It feels even more powerful to do something together, to be visible as a workforce. So please, if you have a story to share get involved. Your poor experience could be used to ensure nobody faces the same in future, an improvement for one of us is an improvement for everyone.