Votes for all!

THIS YEAR'S Annual Delegate meeting created a bizarre anomaly. It's simple to fix: the union just needs to give full voting rights to temporary members.

It was London Freelance Branch that, many moons ago, instigated the category of "temporary membership" of the NUJ. People following the traditional route into a staff job through a barely-paid stint on the Dullsville Advertiser at least paid lower subscriptions while there.

LFB argued that it was unfair, and a barrier to recruitment, that people entering journalism through freelancing went straight onto the same subscription rate as members at, say, Vogue. Worse, they wouldn't be eligible at all until they made two thirds of their income from journalism - whereas they were most likely to think about joining precisely when they decided they wanted to give up the day job.

The NUJ does offer reduced subscriptions to members on low incomes. Pasting verbatim from the current application form:

You do not have to pay more than 1% of your gross taxable income in NUJ contributions or 0.5% if your income is less than £12,600 per year, (subject to a minimum of one third of the Grade 1 rate [of £11.11 per month]).

Got that? (Anybody know any subs?) Obviously, it's not nearly as easy to explain that to a freelance who's umming and ahing about joining the union as it is to say "the first year is cheaper".

Worse, it applies for freelances only after you present annual accounts. By the time you get around to doing those the worst should be over.

The argument for temporary membership was won against firm resistance. Part of the compromise was that temporary members would not have full entitlements. The same went for student membership, another recruiting wheeze.

Now it gets weird. The union's 2003 Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) passed a motion giving student members "the same voting rights as full members at Chapel, Branch and ADM meetings".

Student members pay £10.00 for the duration of their course, plus the first three months of their full membership. You do not have to be on a journalism course to be eligible. You could be doing a degree in Art History but qualify for student membership of the NUJ by doing a couple of bits for the student union paper.

Only 15 per cent of student members go onto a career in journalism. Temporary Members, however, are trying to make a living in journalism - but get none of the above rights and pay £44.40 per year for the privilege.

Temporary membership plays an important rôle in encouraging new journalists to join the NUJ journalists who are struggling to make a living but do not meet the present journalism income threshold to become full members. On a question of equality it is therefore only fair that temporary members should have the same voting rights as student members.

I therefore propose the motion for ADM 2004 that: "Temporary Members have the same voting rights as Full Members at Chapel, Branch and ADM meetings."

Last modified: 26 April 2003 - © 2003 contributors
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