IPC: the chapel lives!

WHAT'S UP DOC? Well, no use bringing your physical aches and pains to the "surgeries" union members are organising at IPC magazines.

The company de-recognised the NUJ and other unions when it refused to negotiate new annual agreements -- staff or freelance -- after the last ones expired in 1994.

But, after a period of head-scratching and wondering "now what?", the NUJ chapel resumed an active -- if slightly underground --rôle by launching both fortnightly surgeries (with the TV Times chapel and the IPC branches of the print union GPMU and the administrators' CPMS) and an "alternative" house news-sheet, Within Reach.

An illustrious but anonymous IPC chapel member ("they're active again -- no names please") told LFB's March meeting that the surgeries are open to all, including freelances. They have been attracting 10 "patients" at a time. "They have been very successful in offering on-the-spot help and in serving as an information exchange."

The chapel was especially pleased when a recent Within Reach exposé of upper-echelon misconduct resulted in a senior manager being dismissed.

All freelances were warned about IPC's determination to acquire all rights in their material. Photographers are specifically cautioned about the company's plan to set up a digital image bank. This could distribute pix globally with no return to the snapper. (Freelance experience is that, despite corporate policy, many editors, if queried, will respect the right to retain copyright -- and consequent further earnings potential in all media.)

As to the prospects for restoring the chapel's negotiating rôle, European legislation offered the best prospects. Already an IPC Works Council had been established and some headway can be made there. In the middle-term, the best hope for re-recognition was that, if elected, a Labour government might fulfil its promise to make union recognition compulsory where "50 per cent plus one" of a workforce vote for it. (This was before the brief electioneering brouhaha which drove New Labour to confirm this policy, and to declare that judges will decide who gets to vote.)

The surgeries are on alternate Wednesdays from 23 April, from 12:30 to 2pm at the S London Industrial Mission, Blackfriars Bridge Road. Urgent queries to 0374 478522.

BY Phil Sutcliffe

May/Jun 1997

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* For ancient reasons, UK journalists' and printers' workplace trade union groups are called "chapels". Rather than chair-creatures, they have a "Mother" or "Father" of Chapel -- MoC or FoC. Someone will be along in a moment with a Theory using this to show that the entire media are an Illuminatus joke. . .

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