From an email:
“I tell you there is another drama coming, same as the _____ _____ one in 2010. _____ are VERY bad paymasters and they owe so many production crew money for over 2 months. Somemore this was meant to be monthly pay and the crew have contract that says it’s monthly pay! Now ____ (name of project) is going to air and yet the EP and CO-EP haven’t bothered to say when all this people can be paid. In fact all they say is they will let them all know when they can pay when they have the money. what kind of reason is that i ask you!!! The work done already and pay is EVERYONE’S most basic right in any production, in any industry actually!!!! And there is money because the show is going on air and i heard that the post had stopped at __________ but now they have been paid so it’s going to continue… so then why haven’t they paid off all the freelancers that worked o n the show!!!! Plus there is no answer given as to a payment date at all. SO irresponsible, do they think they can get away with it. Who start a production and know that there is no money to pay crew and staff… somemore more than 30 people they owe money. Super horrible business practise!!!! Dun ever work for _____ or those useless EPs again!!!”
Official minutes of the closed door session mentioned in the Today article (”It’s up to media freelancers to take the next big step”, 25 Sep 2010) can be downloaded HERE.
The ground-up freelancer professional association mentioned in the minutes can be found at this google groups mailing list.
During the meeting, most of the surveys and data quoted was taken from the last survey conducted by the Singapore media authorities in 2006/2007.
The mediaguildsg is trying to collect new information to give a more updated idea of the current landscape.
It’s up to media freelancers to take the next big step
by Esther Ng
Sep 25, 2010
Such a grouping - be it a trade union, society or association - would represent a first of sorts within the creative industry, an emerging sector that lacks the tradition of organised professional and labour entities.
The onus is now on the freelancers, who have previously raised concerns about poor welfare and have taken recent steps to address the issue of tardy payments.
The structure of the grouping would depend on the freelancers themselves, said media expert Tan Tarn How.
But Nominated Member of Parliament Audrey Wong, who pointed out that freelancers are “individualistic” types, wonders if they can take that next big step and form a cohesive association in the near future.
Even if one materialises, media houses and the authorities would also need to change their mindset for the grouping to be successful, she said.
The proposal emerged at a closed-door meeting on Aug 17 at the Institute of Policy Studies, where the MDA also committed to provide the seed support for such a grouping.
MDA programme director Teo Thiam Chye said the grouping needed to also address other issues, though, such as professional upgrading, training, business and welfare issues.
There are between 50 and 80 production firms in Singapore. One reason behind tardy payments is that some of them do face cash flow problems.
MediaCorp understands that commissioning bodies like broadcasters pay production houses 20 per cent up-front and the remainder in stages. However, for some genres like lifestyle programmes, 80 per cent is paid on completion of the project, which could be six months later.
There have been suggestions from the community that commissioning bodies pay 50 per cent upfront, with which production companies pay freelancers.
The meeting comes 11 weeks after the first closed-door session at Emily Hill on June 8.
Mr Shawn Fonseka, 34, who has been freelancing as a cameraman for 10 years, said: “This is a step in the right direction as freelancers have had nowhere to turn to.”
A film director, who declined to be named, said: “The problem was everyone was waiting for someone else to take the lead. The task is huge because the problems are myriad - each group, for instance, the film editors, the cameramen, have their own set of issues - and nobody wanted to take on all these problems on their own.”
… from a letter written and submitted to http://community.sinema.sg/
Sinema, a local social enterprise, has started a community to bring back the golden age of Singapore cinema.
Join the community, make change!
Six Degrees is organising an open dialogue session for people working in the film, TV and media industry.
Loong Seng Onn has kindly agreed to help moderate the session, which will involve the participation of AIPRO (Association of Independent Producers) whom Six Degrees has invited to attend in order to openly and constructively discuss the various challenges hindering and stifling the growth of the industry.
Topics will include:
ê Working conditions
ê Legal Obligations/ Fair Contracts
We’ve also invited MICA and MDA to attend the session so they can hear directly from the community their challenges and thoughts on how the industry can be developed, moving forward.
Do come for an evening of stimulating & good conversations and please feel free to send this on to your network and contacts who would benefit from this session.
When: 8th June 2010, Tuesday
Where: Emily Hill, 11 Upper Wilkie Road
Time: 7.30pm to 9.30pm
excerpt from the petition:
“AIPRO (Association of Independent Producers (Singapore)) is in talks with MDA and MCS on various issues regarding the local media industry and one of their topics of discussion is “Standardizing Freelancer Rates”. This is worrying and we should be included in any such discussions as this concerns us freelancers directly.
Freelancers operate in a free market place where they negotiate their own pay based on their merit, experience and the kind of work they are engaged to do by production houses. Each job has a different scope, with varying difficulty and requirements. How can a framework be determined to fix fees for freelancers when the nature of the jobs itself is not fixed ?
To standardize freelancer fees defeats the very notion of the marketplace of negotiation in a freelance world, be it in this industry or any other.
By signing this petition you are saying NO to the idea of standardizing Singapore freelancer rates in the Media industry and acknowledging that we need to be a part of the dialogue between AIPRO, MCS and MDA should this topic of discussion continue amongst them.”
—- end of excerpt
Have a look at some comments from freelancers (and non-freelancers) here and here.
A freelancer’s story:
I manage a group of freelancers.
Last year, a person from a company contracted some of us to conduct classes for a school. Our verbal contract was that payment would be made on a monthly basis.
Things were okay at first. Then, the person who contracted us started defaulting in payments. A few months later, we complained to the school directly and threatened a boycott until the contract person finally gave us part of the due fees.
And then… we never heard from him again. The school informed us that they had already paid up the rest of the fees so surely he could not use “cash-flow problem” as an excuse. If only we could have been directly paid by the school…
To get him to cough up the money owed, I considered taking legal action. After all, I have documental proof in the form of emails and smses.
However, I cannot even contact this person anymore! He changed his mobile number and all previous addresses of his company led me to a dead end. The school and the teacher-in-charge had tried to help but even they had problems contacting him previously. It is as though he has totally vanished!
How do I sue someone if I can’t even get a proper address to send the letter?
Since then, the school has since cancelled the teaching contract with him. Now all I can do is curse my bad luck and figure out new ways of paying my colleagues who had spent time and effort doing the work.
There might be one more chance to get him though. I heard that he may be involved in an upcoming high-profile project. He would have to show his face again sooner or later… right?
A freelancer’s story:
Sometime in June last year, I was referred to a project with a local company. The project seemed lucrative and was given to me by a fellow freelancer who claimed she knew the company well; she was just too busy.
My initial excitement upon accepting this job soon gave way to an overwhelming sense of doubt…
Firstly, the company did not have an office. The office address (somewhere in the CBD) was phoney. I think the company paid the office owner to use its address so it looked good on the business card.
Secondly, the company did not keep soft copy records of their previous projects. They claimed they didn’t have a practice of archiving their intellectual property.
Thirdly, all the people working on the project were all part-timers; they all had other jobs and were not permanent staff.
I decided to pull out of the project after a while. The urgent timeline and low freelance rate were not worth my time. Also at that time, I was not well.
I informed the company of my decision, after which they claimed they suffered a loss because they had to hire other costlier freelancers to pick up from where I left off.
Looking back at those few intense work weeks, I know that I was right. At that time, I didn’t expect to get paid at all and stopped contacting them…
Earlier this year, I changed my mobile number and sent a mass sms to inform everyone in my phone-book list. The company replied to my message, asking me to send in my invoice. They also asked if I would be interested to work on new projects.
I sent in my invoice but declined the job offer, of course.
They wrote to me and requested for a 15% discount on the invoiced amount, claiming they had to get others to finish “my job” (incidentally, no contract was signed). So I gave them a 15% off. The total sum came up to about a few hundred dollars.
After the sum was agreed upon, I didn’t hear from them or receive any payment. I sent smses every other week to chase for the payment. The other party claimed that they had not been paid by the clients so they couldn’t pay me.
This is just a bad business practice and a vicious cycle. I won’t be surprised that these companies just use the statement “clients haven’t paid us” to delay or avoid payment altogether.
So, when we are referred to any freelance job, be direct and ask about payment terms. Ask for advance payment for long-haul jobs. Freelancers don’t have money coming to them from the skies. When we offer a service, we should be paid promptly.
I must say that this is the only company that I had ever worked with that doesn’t pay.
Do your checks, don’t fall into phoney company’s traps.
Article in Todayonline with some comments
From MOM list of employee trade unions:
Singapore Union of Broadcasting Employees
Caldecott Broadcast Centre
Tel: 6256 6539
Fax: 6256 8815
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This company conspired to hire a director to shoot a viral video for a big client.
Turns out the director is a clueless dud; driver-grip guy ends up doing most of the work including shooting the whole damn thing for them.
This driver-grip never got paid. Neither did the soundman. IT HAS BEEN 2 YEARS.
One of the ex-bosses (who claimed to have “left this company”) had the cheek to call up again asking for help on another shoot.
PUI! OF COURSE NOT. This crew member has since left freelancing and now has a stable full-time job…
Big THANK-YOU to everyone who has shared their stories.
I am sure there are a lot more out there.
If you’ve ever been denied payment and your patience tested to the max, or you know other friends and fellow freelancers with such horror stories—
DO SHARE YOUR STORY. Submit it here.
Please spread the word - let other freelancers be forewarned of walking into such traps!
I did some freelance translation work for a company and did not get paid. After having emailed, called, sms-ed politely and rudely for 1.5 years, still nothing.
In fact, they even had the cheek to approach me to do more work but of course I declined! Lucky I did - the last I heard, even their fulltimer didn’t get paid for months and eventually quit.
Owed by a company… since March 2009!
The actual sum outstanding was about 1K, of which partial payment was received in December 2009. The company then offered to settle the remaining in installments:
$100 for first 2 months and maybe $200 for another 2 months.
Nothing was eventually paid of this arrangement. This is for just a few hundred dollars… not like thousands!
Other shitty tactics:
- repeated attempts to get the money back have been answered with the excuse that “the company is not doing well” and yet, they can put up an ad to look for new staff!
- on the first day of the job, a contract was offered to the freelancer for signing which had SOMEONE ELSE’S PERSONAL PARTICULARS. A new contract was never seen again!