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Time Out slammed for ‘disgrace’ of a job ad for part time editor paying just over $30,000

City guide website Time Out has attracted the ire of the industry’s union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), over a job ad seeking an arts and culture editor to work three days a week on a salary of just above $30,000. The publication told Mumbrella it takes allegations of underpayment very seriously, but wishes the union reached out “before making assumptions”.

The ad asks for an “experienced and tenacious” editor who already has an “extensive network of contacts” and is “confident writing alongside and editing the work of some of Australia’s finest arts journalists and critics”. But the salary matches up to an Award classification designed for employees who have completed a cadetship but are still “gaining experience”, working under “broad supervision”, and just beginning to exercise “independent initiative” and “more advanced skills”.

MEAA’s media federal president Marcus Strom took to Twitter to call the posting, which originally advertised a salary of $30,000, a “disgrace”, and said the salary doesn’t reflect the seniority and responsibility of the position.

The ad, currently listed on Seek, no longer specifically points to a salary of $30,000, but is still listed as falling within the $30,000-$35,000 pay bracket, and now says the salary will be paid as Band 1, Level 4 under the Journalists Published Media Award.

That classification entitles an employee to a minimum of $1,036.10 a week full time, which, for three days a week, would translate to a salary of $32,326.32.

“It appears the advertised pay rate for the position of Arts and Culture Editor at Time Out is not commensurate with the seniority and experience required for this highly demanding position,” Strom told Mumbrella.

“The position of an arts editor, which presumably involves commissioning freelancers and editorial planning, comes with considerable responsibility. The advertised rate is barely above the award for a first-year junior journalist.”

Time Out editorial director Cass Knowlton said she has been a MEAA member for over a decade and is an “ardent supporter” of the union, but wishes Strom had “spoken to Time Out before making assumptions about our internal structure”.

“Time Out currently has a full-time, national arts and culture editor who reports directly to the editorial director, and that editor has sadly decided to leave the company in a few weeks,” Knowlton said.

“On review of the position, we think a better structure going forward is a job share arrangement of two arts journalists, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, who will report to the city editors and work under their supervision. That will ensure we serve our audiences better and that we have local journalists on the ground in both cities.

“Unfortunately, when I was publishing the job ad I put it up with an incorrect salary range. This was simply human error, which we rectified immediately. I also did not review the job ad carefully enough to reflect the job-sharing arrangement structure. We immediately updated the job ad to make it clearer and corrected the salary to comply – as we always do – with the correct band.”

The original advertised salary of $30,000 (left), compared to the updated salary information (right). (Click to enlarge)

As advertised, the role involves maintaining events listings and guides, and working on commercial briefs. The ideal candidate will have journalism, social media, SEO, and sub-editing experience, an understanding of defamation and intellectual property laws, and will support a team of freelancers.

“The successful applicant should already have their finger on the pulse of the Australian arts scene … You will already have an extensive network of contacts in the arts scene and are confident writing alongside and editing the work of some of Australia’s finest arts journalists and critics,” the posting reads.

The job description

The Award classifies employees into three bands (1, 2 and 3) which are then broken down into levels.

Time Out says the editor role fits into a ‘Band 1’, the lowest band designed for junior journalists who have just completed cadetships. The description of the band stresses that the employee is still gaining experience under supervision.

 

“Editorial employees classified in band one have completed the training requirements of a cadetship or its equivalent and are gaining experience in a wide range of practical areas and/or undertaking additional training,” the Award reads.

“They normally perform journalistic and photographic duties under broad supervision. As they undertake additional training and/or gain experience, they are assigned to duties requiring the exercise of independent initiative and judgment and/or the exercise of more advanced skills.”

Band two applies to employees who have obtained wide practical experience, advanced their skills, and work independently (without direct supervision), using initiative and judgement.

At the lowest rung of Band 2, level 8, the pro rata salary for an employee working three days a week would be $38,088.96.

“From this year forward, all online titles will have to pay rates and penalties according to the award,” Strom added.

“Unfortunately this highlights the inconsistency of employment conditions across digital media in Australia. That’s why MEAA is campaigning for fair pay and transparent industry standards for all digital journalists.”

Time Out’s print magazines

The rates and penalties to which Strom refer relate to a November Fair Work Commission ruling. In the landmark decision, the Commission agreed with MEAA that digital journalists should be entitled to the penalty rates, overtime and other entitlements their print counterparts have access to under the Award. The decision comes into effect this November, 12 months after the ruling.

Time Out produces digital content, but also has a print product in its quarterly magazine, available for free at selected cafes, shops, entertainment venues and hotels.

Update 3 February 12:15pm: Marcus Strom tweeted that he has reviewed the company’s internal structures since his initial tweets, and pointed out Time Out’s CEO earned around $830,000 in 2018, 16.6 times the amount the advertised position is paying.

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