Annual Delegate Meeting 2003
ON FIRST glance, the agenda for this year's union
Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) in Llandudno looked like a
procedural nerds' dream, packed as it was with motions and
proposals on the union's structural future. But the union's growing
"real-life" relevance was also reinforced by speakers from a range
of areas on important workplace battles and victories, from the
BBC to the war in Iraq to northern local papers.
And although debate was robust it was mercifully concise (and
very well organised), and, on several key issues, key democratic
safeguards were won. The General Secretary's strategic review has
been discussed in these pages before and,
in two areas where the branch has expressed concerns, amendments were
secured. The proposal to limit the membership of industrial councils
such as the Freelance Industrial Council
to nine was felled by a joint amendment from the branch and FIC
calling for a proper review of industrial councils leading to
recommendations for next year's ADM.
Rations for a hard day at the conference, Llandudno-style
photo © Dave Rotchelle .
The review's suggestion that union National Executive Council
members be elected every two years, rather than one as at
present, was similarly defeated by a branch amendment. We were
also successful in ensuring that the power to set subscription
rates remains with ADM rather than an inflexible inflation+0.25
per cent formula proposed.
Our motions offering support for journalists exposed to racist
material in the workplace, and calling for campaigning on a law
offering freelances the right to bargain collectively were
similarly successful. ADM also voted to set up a political fund,
despite the branch's opposition.
On the international front, we were pleased to welcome our
colleagues from Ukraine, Andrei Shevchenko (chairman of the newly-formed
independent journalists' union, who became a father during ADM) and
Yevhen Hlibovitsy. Both addressed conference on the
struggle for press freedom in their country and on the urgent
need for an independent inquiry into the death of their colleague
Gyorgy Gongadze, whose case
has been taken up vigorously by this branch. Our motion on the
issue was passed unanimously here. Our
motion deploring the closure of all independent media in
Eritrea was also passed.
The war against Iraq loomed large too, and an anti-war motion was
overwhelmingly carried, and followed later that day by a two-minute
silent demonstration by delegates on the beach across the
road from the conference centre. The human cost of war, and the
threats it poses to journalists, were brought powerfully home in
the tributes to those journalists killed in the conflict. Moving
tributes were offered to ITN reporter and NUJ member Terry Lloyd
from his former colleagues.
It was a busy old conference, and for all that ADM can be
maddening, procedural and hard work, it offers a vital
opportunity to meet people from across the union and the
profession and gain that "whole union" perspective that the General
Secretary's strategic review talks about. It was also heartening
to hear freelance issues mentioned fairly regularly in general
speeches, and delegates were left both with plenty to ponder and
plenty to feel encouraged by.
Going for a gong
Another advantage of attending ADM is the chance to sample the
more, er, eccentric habits of Britain's small-town hoteliers. We
were certainly richly entertained by the Basil Fawlty-esque
antics of our Llandudno host. Very much one of the old school, he
insisted on banging a gong to wake everyone up for breakfast, got
irritated by guests who didn't sit down for dinner on the stroke
of 7.30pm, locked the front door at 11.30pm and generally worked
himself into a right old lather at any disturbance to his
routine. When guests asked for a front-door key for the hotel so
they could let themselves in after curfew time, he responded
indignantly, "If I came to stay at your house, would you give me a
key?" The man was, in a very real sense, a legend. Roll on
Liverpool next year.