Very first day at The Guardian. Some kind of induction day.

A tall guy who seems that will be my supervisor spends too long explaining how the articles are classified, tagged and formatted, ready for uploading. I am also supposed to read them and pick up mistakes that may have slipped through the several layers of sub-editing. These are articles that have already been sent to the printers; any correction will only come up on the online version.

We sign a contract, which is strictly valid for ten months. After those ten months I will need to have some kind of a four month break where I will have to work elsewhere. It is what is called “casual work”. I am not a member of the staff, I am one of the casuals like all uploaders, a freelance. Yet I will get a payslip at the end of each month with my taxes deducted from my pay, withheld by The Guardian until they pay them to the “taxman”, like a Pay-As-You-Earn employee. This is exactly what the National Union of Journalists had been warning against, but it is either take it or leave it, so I can only tell the Union something they already know, and I am one more of the hundreds in the statistics who have the disadvantages of a paye worker and also the disadvantages of the freelancers.

It could be called a zero hours contract. They have no obligation of giving me work. I have to call every so often, on the day designated by The Guardian, to try arrange shifts, as it fits the uploading department.

This time we can do it face to face, as I am here. But of course by today all the other casuals have already taken most shifts available, so I can only take the shifts that the other casuals did not want this month.

So from next month I will need to call on the first day of the month, from 9 am and only from 9am, and pick up shifts I want to do.

He adds my email address to a list of other addresses and explains that during the months, because freelancers may need to cancel their shifts, I can take on those cancelled shifts. If that happens to me, I must ake sure that some one else will take it on, and then notify the desk.
In any case, at the end of each shift I will sign some paper that will be counter-signed, to prove that I have worked that shift, to make sure I will be paid for the correct amount of shifts. So, he says, even if it looks like I have very little work, if I watch my email account closely (frequently) and take up the shifts that other people can not make, I may end up working quite a few days a week up to the maximum of five. But, if no one takes my shift, tough, I will have to do it anyway. But mostly, offered up shifts do end up taken up by some one.

He also explains that we get paid a month in arrears. Or is it two. What I will work from now until the end of January, will be accounted and processed during February and I will receive my pay, minus taxes, at the end of February. Then what I work during February I will get at the end of march. I look at the calendar and realise I will have to live and work with no pay at all for one and a half months. I silently make a mental note to negotiate non-payment of my rent for the rest of January and the whole of February, when I will get the salary of half a month.