Coronavirus crisis: Broadcast union urges UK government to help TV freelancers

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is being urged to do more to protect the income of TV freelancers who are seeing their livelihoods threatened by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Self-employed crew and production staff working in television, including sports TV, continue to fall through the safety net despite measures announced in the recent financial Budget, the creative industries union Bectu said.

Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, of which Bectu is a sector, has written to the chancellor asking for more to be done to “recognise and alleviate the situation of freelance and self-employed workers”.

Bectu represents over 20,000 people working as freelancers in the creative industries. These include people who are self-employed, casual workers and those who are on zero-hours contracts.

Clancy said: “Freelance workers are in a particularly vulnerable situation during this pandemic. Many of them work in ways that mean that even small disruptions to their working patterns can cause real financial hardship. In addition, they may have just faced a tax bill that will have reduced their ability to manage a period without work.

“My concern is not just for workers who have to self-isolate or who fall sick, but for those who face a more protracted period out of work due to the cancellation of productions or the closure of venues. Universal Credit is a system which time and time again has been proven to be completely unable to cope with any form of change in demand. Asking these workers to rely on Universal Credit or indeed ESA is simply inadequate.”

Bectu is calling for the government to re-think its approach and find a more resilient safety net for freelance workers.

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