Media union urges journalists to stop accepting inadequate payment for work

(Beza Getachew / Ryersonian Staff)

(Beza Getachew / Ryersonian Staff)

If you’re an underpaid young journalist, representatives from the Canadian Media Guild say your fellow media professionals might be partly to blame.

Two union representatives gave tips to students and faculty on building a sustainable media career at a presentation on workers’ rights on March 25 at Ryerson’s school of journalism.

One of those tips is to avoid accepting inadequate payment for work.

“When you get out into the workforce, you might be living in your parents’ basement, and maybe you don’t have a lot of expenses and you think, ‘OK, I can do a 5,000-word article for $25, it’s not a big deal,’” said Denise O’Connell, a journalist who is a member of the Canadian Media Guild.

“Sure, you can do that now, but it’s going to make it harder for you to not do that later.”

O’Connell and Katherine Lapointe, members of the CWA Canada  media union (the parent union of the Canadian Media Guild), described this type of compensation arrangement — which they called “undercutting” — during their section on negotiating for compensation.

“If everybody does that, it becomes increasingly harder to make a living for yourself and (for) everybody to make a living,” said O’Connell. Her union encourages workers to stop accepting low compensation.

“There will always be people who stay rogue, but in the long run I think the people like the idea of making more money,” she said. “The only reason they undercut themselves is because they expect somebody else will undercut them. Right now it’s a huge problem and it’s getting bigger.”

Some of the other tips included being willing to walk away from a job, getting important information presented in writing, and not relinquishing the copyright and moral rights to your work.

“It’s really important for freelancers to retain their copyright and moral right, because that’s how you make money,” said Lapointe. “That’s how you’re able to write a story and then use the research again and produce other pieces off of it or turn it into a documentary or whatever.”



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