The temper tantrum you served up...

I hope you will find space for this letter in order to correct the misleading picture of union affairs you presented in the May newsletter, which my freelance partner showed me.

I was unable to attend the Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) because of work commitments, but I am familiar with the arguments and motions referred to after having spent a year on the National Executive Council (NEC). It seems that a goodly number of the London Freelance branch committee have trouble dealing with the fact that people disagree with their ideas for perfectly valid reasons.

Ros Bayley professes herself "stunned" that anyone should even think about speaking against one of the many motions London Freelance branch put to ADM; Mike Holderness, in his usual "I'm the only intelligent person in the union" mode, puts it all down to a takeover by secretive red cells with outmoded language; and Humphrey Evans just can't understand why anyone would disagree with the London Freelance vision.

Perhaps I can provide a slightly fuller picture by briefly addressing a number of points raised.

Many of us don't feel giving Freelance Industrial Council final say on everything the union does is preferable to the elected National Executive of the whole union having final say [Who does? ed]; we think restricting terms of office on the NEC is unnecessarily proscriptive and a threat to continuity and the proper use of experience (and we trust the membership to decide whether or not someone has had long enough in a post); and I'm afraid we do detect more than a touch of McCarthyism in the proposal to force people to declare their membership of "organisations or groups".

People should be judged on their record. For many years London Magazine Branch has a Welfare Officer who was a member of the Conservative Party and she did as fine a job as a good few Labourites, Communists, Trotskyists and other assorted varieties I've come across. Looking beyond the labels requires rational thought, something that isn't beyond most members, even if some of the London Freelance Branch committee members apparently have difficulty with it.

Your assertion that the union's staff behaved with "impropriety"in opposing attempts to get their own union to derecognise them is also quite disgraceful, and I hope you will be apologising. [The word "impropriety" referred to them being represented by the union which employs them, not to their speaking at Conference - ed] This particular accusation carries the unpleasant hallmark of Jake Ecclestone, someone who has demonstrated his total inability to accept that anyone who disagrees with him can be anything but a corrupt extremist. It's often said that pets take on the characteristics of their owners and it seems some of your committee members are paying the price for attempting to refashion the branch as Jake's lapdog.

You sell your own members short by presenting such a one-sided view of recent events in the union: I'm sure they would have preferred a balanced report to the temper tantrum you served up.

Incidentally, the new Freelance Fees Guide was in the same mailing - another example of what the NUJ doesn't do for the poor old freelances. Just one quibble - no mention of designers in the book section, and very little solid information for designers anywhere. My partner, who is a designer working in books and magazines, tells me she had just about managed to work out that Quark Xpress was the industry standard by now. it presumably any problems with the guide are not the fault of those freelance stalwarts who produce it but of the nasty, unrepresentative, corrupt and stupid NUJ as a whole.

Next time you have a speaker on Repetitive Strain Injury at your branch, perhaps you should get some advice on how to work safely with those massive chips on your shoulders.

May/Jun 1999
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