Freelance journalists may collectively negotiate with publishers

26 May 2010

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has decided to grant authorisation to the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance to allow it to collectively negotiate the terms of engagement with certain publishers on behalf of its freelance journalist members.

The arrangements allow the MEAA to collectively represent its freelance journalist members in negotiations with Fairfax Media Limited, ACP Magazines Ltd, News Limited and Pacific Magazines.

The MEAA proposes to negotiate minimum rates of pay, freedom to contract with other media organisations, and other contractual terms such as copyright and moral rights.

"The ACCC considers the proposed collective bargaining arrangements may increase the bargaining power of freelance journalists when negotiating with each of the targets which provides the opportunity for greater input into contract terms," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said today. "The ACCC also considers that freelance journalists may achieve some transaction cost savings through collective negotiations."

Importantly, participation in the collective negotiations is voluntary. The publishers remain free to choose whether to negotiate with the MEAA or deal with journalists individually. Similarly, MEAA members may opt out of any collective agreement and negotiate individually with the publishers.

Authorisation does not extend to a collective decision by freelance journalists to boycott a publisher if it refused to participate in collective negotiations or for other reasons including a failure to reach a collective agreement.

Authorisation simply removes the legal risk under the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 to the MEAA and participating members if they were to engage in collective negotiations with the publishers.

Collective bargaining refers to competitors collectively negotiating terms and conditions with a supplier or customer.  Without authorisation, it can raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. Broadly, the ACCC may grant authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.

The ACCC's determination will be available from the ACCC website (www.accc.gov.au/AuthorisationsRegister) and by following the links to this matter.

Related register records

Release number: 
NR 109/10
ACCC Infocentre: 

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Media enquiries: 
Mr Graeme Samuel - (02) 9230 9133
Ms Lin Enright - (02) 6243 1108