Canadian Magazine Industry News
11 September 2008,     TORONTO
Canadian Freelance Union president welcomes plans for new literary agency

Plans for a potentially industry-changing literary agency for freelance writers are moving forward and the Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) says it won’t stand in the way. “We’re fully supportive of any endeavor to increase the clout of freelancers,” CFU president Michael OReilley said in an interview. “There’s no sense of competition between a union and something like the agency. The goals are very much aligned.”

Founder Derek Finkle, a former editor of Toro Magazine, unveiled many of the principles for the proposed agency, to be called the Canadian Writers Group (CWG), at an off-the-record meeting held Tuesday in Toronto. (A second meeting is scheduled for Monday.)

While we cannot report on what was said at the meeting, at least one veteran freelancer, David Hayes, has publicly expressed support for the agency, writing on the listserv of the Toronto Freelance Editors and Writers list: “What I like about Derek’s plan is that it’s focused & narrow in scope, making it realistically something that could be up & producing results in a relatively short time frame. It’s also structured after the literary agencies that represent many of us in our book work, a model that we’re both familiar, & comfortable, with.” (A longer transcript of Hayes’ comments is available on the Canadian Magazines blog.)

The CWG is expected to officially launch in October. If Finkle is able to garner a “critical mass” of interest, the agency will start doing business in January 2009.

OReilley says he believes the CWG and CFU can co-exist. “A union is a broader tool in a sense that can, we hope, do some things that an agency would not be interested in doing,” he says. This includes things like health and disability benefits for members and creating a legal framework for writers trying to collect payment.

The CFU has close to 500 charter members and has been running for about three years but, as OReilley admits, hasn’t yet been able to make much of an impact. “The difficulty lies in the fact that, first of all, freelancers are independent business people,” he says. "In various ways too, we’re talking a broad spectrum of communications workers, everybody from freelance magazine writers to photographers to illustrators to graphic designers to web people, there’s a whole broad range people we’ve categorized as independent communications workers.”

(The CWG, in its initial phase, will represent only a group of non-fiction writers who publish work in magazines, newspapers, online publications and for corporations.)

“It’s a difficult task to actually achieve results at the negotiation table,” OReilley adds, “because our counterpart, the publishers and various businesses that we work for, have very little interest in talking about increases in rates because they can get us for very cheap right now.”

 

— M.U.
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