Friday, January 28, 2011

Oxford University Press oppresses freelances

The Oxford University Press (OUP), one of the world's leading academic and professional publishing houses, is imposing a draconian and far-reaching "agreement" on freelances. These are frequently sole traders, with little in the way of financial resources. OUP is insisting that freelances sign the "agreement" by the beginning of Feb as a precondition for continuing to receive work, such as editing, indexing or proofreading.
The reason given for the "agreement" is to prove a freelance's status as an independent contractor for UK tax purposes - something that has traditionally been done by applying the UK tax authorities' "badges of trade". However, the agreement goes much further, in that it contains an indemnity clause, under which freelances have to indemnify OUP against any errors or mistakes that are accidentally introduced into the text of the material they've been working on.
This is both unfair and oppressive, but OUP - stating that it is relying on legal advice - refuses to enter into negotiations about the indemnity clause, or even provide an adequate explanation as to the perceived need for it.
Both the NUJ and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), which represent the interests of freelances in the publishing industry, have approached OUP requesting clarification of the terms of the indemnity clause, but have been rebuffed by OUP.
Let's hope OUP's authors wise-up to what's happening and apply some pressure on OUP, otherwise their work will suffer as experienced freelances refuse to handle their titles because of OUP's unconsionable attitude to the freelances that form the backbone of the publishing industry.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year?

How are people who have got used to 'having' things (even if funded by debt) going to react when they find themselves excluded from the consumer society? We've seen the first stirrings of social unrest with the student fee protests but will 2011 see many more taking to the streets in protest?
All very well for Cameron to say the cuts are necessary, and, in time-honoured Tory style that "there is no other way" - but will those about to lose their jobs, their status - possibly even their homes - see it that way. Exclusion is going to hurt and many of us have got used to 'having' all that we want: not 'having' or being excluded from the means of 'having' is going to test many in 2011.