An incident in Halifax this week is a sad reminder to freelancers everywhere of the dangers of social media.
A long-time freelance arts reporter had their radio columns at CBC canceled over a crude tweet about the son of Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil.
CBC has in place Code of Conduct and Social Media policies that have been criticized as being too far-reaching when it comes to the right to free speech, not only for employees but for freelancers as well.
While freelancers are not considered to be employees of the CBC, its Code of Conduct makes it clear that the same standards apply to them and other contract workers.
But the precarious nature of freelance work means that independent workers are without the protections afforded by employment standards or collective agreements when they run into trouble over public posts.
The CBC’s Social Media Guidance document offers advice to anyone involved in broadcast journalism:
Some aspects of freelance work at CBC, such as rates and contract terms, are covered by the Canadian Media Guild’s collective agreement. And Freelancers at the CBC are entitled to representation from Canadian Media Guild staff representatives as they are considered members of the union by virtue of the dues deducted from their fees.
However, the union has no power to protect freelancers from losing work because of social media posts — or because of any other reason.
Many in the arts community in Halifax are upset to have lost an important voice this week. One can argue that the penalty paid because of one ill-advised tweet was too severe, but in this instance the employer has the final say in the punishment.
Of course it’s not only freelancers who are at risk of losing employment over these types of incidents. The last decade has seen numerous examples of people who have lost full time jobs over a single tweet.
Freelancers are advised to remember that most situations allow an employer to drop a freelancer at any time for any reason. Be careful what you tweet.
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