by Rachel Smith
01 June 2018
There are some experiences in your career you’ll never forget. Learning that a client or company has gone bust – and you’re a staffer or freelancer owed money or entitlements – is one of them.
I’ll never forget the day the company I worked for went under. At 4pm, liquidators arrived, told us to pack up our stuff and marched me and my colleagues out of the warehouse offices we occupied in Pyrmont. At the same time, the same thing was happening to our colleagues in Melbourne. It was a pretty scary, awful day.
That experience started me on the path to freelancing. And I was reminded of it this week when a List member, Kate, told us that Copeland Publishing, which produced Sydney’s CHILD and similar papers in other States, has appointed liquidators.
We all know print mags are doing it tough, so it’s never a happy day to hear news like that. But sorry – I’m always going to be on the side of freelancers who were told to file copy by a company that knew it would never be paying for it.
“I was never told the company was going into liquidation at all,” says Kate. “My last email chasing payment was sent back saying the email doesn’t exist anymore, so I tried calling them and the phone message said the office was closed and that the messages were being monitored. But I never received a response and was never told that the company was closing. I had to Google ‘Copeland Publishing’ and ‘liquidators’ to find out that liquidators had been appointed two weeks ago!”
Before learning that, Kate was still commissioned by the company – and filed copy as usual, unaware that anything was remiss. “I’m disappointed that they continued to give their freelancers deadlines to meet when they knew they probably wouldn’t be able to pay them.”
Experts advise sending a letter of demand with proof of the monies you’re owed as part of a formal request to recoup the money. You should also seek immediate advice from a lawyer or the MEAA as to your rights.
Kate is owed over $1000 and waiting to hear from the liquidators about the process (if any) to get paid. She admits she doesn’t hold high hopes.
“My advice to other freelancers would be to really think about working for publishers or any client where you constantly have to chase payment. I am lucky in that they weren’t my only source of income and not a high paying client. At the end of the day I have other great clients and I focus on that.”
In my case, the liquidators eventually funnelled some funds down to staff like me. Super contributions were never paid, but I remember receiving a measly $2000 out of the wages I was owed.
It went straight onto a laptop so I could start freelancing – and I’ve tried to have fingers in multiple pies ever since.
Have you lost money because a company you worked for appointed liquidators?