A disgrace to journalism

YOUR report "NUJ NEC to freelances: Please dont do anything" was a disgrace to journalism. In it you reported that only four people supported the amendment. Of the NEC majority of 20 or so, you singled me out for criticism as I "stood for an NEC seat on the basis of being a freelance activist".

The minute of the NEC meeting says six people, not four, voted for the amendment that fell. I should also make clear that I stood for the NEC on my union record as a whole, which has been mainly one of chapel organisation as a staff member, and not on the basis of being only a freelance activist. I have continued to be active as a freelance but not exclusively on freelance issues. I also represent London on the NEC, which, like all regional seats, includes both freelances and staff. The N in NEC stands for National, which means I, along with most members of the NEC, accept that I have to put the best interests of the National Union of Journalists over and above any individual sector.

We should be proud of the NUJ and, in particular, its efforts on behalf of freelances. The disparate and geographically diverse spread of freelances makes them difficult and more expensive to organise and this is already reflected in the fact that FIC gets 40% of the overall budget for industrial councils even though it only represents 25% of the unions membership.

It might (although I doubt it) have been excusable not to call me if a journalist who was rushed off his feet with work was trying to put together a branch newsletter voluntarily. But I now understand that, unlike most branch newsletters, this is not the case with The Freelance and that the editor is paid a substantial sum to produce it.

All sectors need more money but freelance, perhaps more than any other sector, also needs a significant increase in the number of members prepared to volunteer to help the union, giving up their time, effort and skills free-of-charge for the benefit of us all.

It is time to start thinking what we can do for the union and not just what the union can do for us.

Ed: I should have contacted Chris. The story was proposed to me at about 8pm on Friday 26 August; I took the Freelance to press at 9am the following day, and went on to a meeting at Acorn House (for which I have not claimed expenses). I realised I had made an error as I was going on holiday after that. London Freelance Branch has voted £100 per day for a nominal two days' work per issue to the editor of the Freelance. I was misinformed about the vote; minutes were not then available.

Nov/Dec 1999
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