NEC sacks Freelance Organiser

NUJ DEPUTY general secretary and freelance organiser Jake Ecclestone was sacked by the union's National Executive on Friday 24 October.

The executive passed, by a small majority, a pre-arranged motion of no confidence, dismissed him instantly and offered him £32,000. Ecclestone rejected this, vowing to fight for his job.

The sacking leaves 5600 NUJ freelance members -- nearly a third of the union -- without an official to represent them. Ecclestone has been deputy general secretary for 16 years, elected four times to the post. He has been a member of the NUJ for 40 years.

The sacking motion was proposed by PR member Anita Halpin and seconded by Guardian reporter Seumas Milne. It followed a decision to issue a disciplinary warning because Ecclestone opposed general secretary John Foster's proposals to reduce staffing in the union's Dublin office and give full financial autonomy to the NUJ in Ireland.

The executive agreed to hold a ballot for a new deputy general secretary -- and Ecclestone announced he would be a candidate. He said: "This was like a Stalinist show trial carried out behind closed doors.

"I will not accept conscience money. I want the issue to be settled at the NUJ annual conference next February -- by which time I expect to have been re-elected by the membership."

Foster is understood to have argued that the relationship of trust between himself and Ecclestone had broken down, beyond repair he believed, in recent months. He had given Ecclestone opportunities to discuss the issues, to conciliate and to apologise, but ultimately he as General Secretary was responsible for managing the union's affairs and disciplining staff as appropriate. He said that he was looking at ways of ensuring that work on freelance issues was covered.

Freelance Industrial Council is holding an emergency meeting to consider how the interests of freelance members of the union can now best be served. It is hoped that a temporary freelance support worker can be appointed this week.

Fourteen members of Freelance Industrial Council had asked for a statement to be delivered to the NEC - to no avail, as it turned out.

Nov/Dec 1997

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Photo shows Jacob Ecclestone at the last Annual Delegate Meeting. He told the NEC: "I am sad that it has come to this, colleagues. For 20 years I have, to the best of my poor abilities, tried to serve the members of this trade union - of which I have been a member for 40 years. It has been a privilege for me and - as you prepare to sack me - I want to say that I am grateful for the confidence that the members have placed in me."

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