Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Working from Home: Or Writers, the New Genteel Poor

As of this week unionized workers for the Montreal tabloid Le Journal de Montréal have been locked-out by an affiliate of the media giant Quebecor for two years. Yesterday the company's head honcho Pierre Karl Péladeau told Quebec legislators that it was necessary because of the changing media world.

The occasion was a hearing on whether the province should change its anti-striker breaker legislation to conform to times when it is increasingly easy to contract out work. While the idea of changing Quebec's labour legislation casts a shadow that covers far more than the publishing world, it is particularly dark there. The extent of the Quebecor case came out when a former employee of an agency used by Le Journal de Montréal to provide copy for its pages filed a complaint for unlawful dismissal. Côté tonic, the company the worker ws fired from, once had five or six employees, but since 2009 it has bought work from about free lance 40 graphic artists and copy editors in order to produce its classified ads. In addition, another freelance agency is providing more than 30 per cent of news stories, supposedly only to replace contect from the Presse canadienne which previously provided about 15 per cent.

All this comes as the valiant Heather Robertson announced that her second class action against Canwest, Torstar and others for electronic use without compensation has been settled, and several million dollars will soon be distributed to freelancers.

That's good news, but no publication is buying new freelance work on the terms that previously existed. Between freelance contracts that give all rights to publications, and strong arm tactics by Quebecor and others media, it's becoming almost impossible to make a living as a writer.

1 comment:

Jodi said...

This blog post's title really caught my eye -- it makes a lot of sense. And I found the post insightful, though I don't live in Quebec and wouldn't be affected by the legislation.