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Freelances mostly do well at Annual Conference

London Freelance Branch chair Dave Rotchelle gives an interim report on the NUJ's recent Centenary Annual Delegate Meeting (conference).

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The view from the London Freelance Branch table at the NUJ annual conference

You will be pleased to hear that your delegation worked conscientiously throughout the four days in Birmingham, each of them addressing conference from the platform as well as being actively involved in the huge amount of lobbying that is so vital to getting support before motions are put to the vote.

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes activity in the run up to the debate on the Draft Code of Conduct: I am delighted to report that the voice of reason prevailed, with agreement reached that some of the wording would be re-drafted, particularly the clause relating to photographing children that caused so much consternation at the Branch discussion on it in March’s meeting.

As a conference first-timer our own Heather Brooke spoke brilliantly proposing the all-important Freedom of Information Act motion explaining its implications to a very attentive conference.

Following the Branch’s House of Commons meeting on 16 April we will be mounting a vigorous campaign to oppose the government’s planned changes to the Act so do check the LFB website for details.

Virtually all the motions relating to Freelance issues were passed, the notable exception being the request to recruit a Photographic Organiser.

That call was put to conference with a long row of delegates lined up on either side of the hall to speak for and against. Our position was argued fiercely and persuasively, topped off by a particularly passionate closing performance from Nottingham Branch and Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) member Pete Jenkins.

It was a close call, but I think conference was persuaded and that if the motion had been voted on we would probably have just won. But unfortunately the steam train was diverted into a siding by a badly-timed call for the motion to be remitted to allow the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) to have a closer look at the proposition. That gave Conference the much easier option of not having to make a difficult decision there and then: so predictably they accepted it and shunted the plan into the remission shed for another year.

It was very frustrating to see all the effort that had gone into the motion over the past two years just fade away like that, but let’s remind ourselves of the positives. In the lobbying it was clear that many, many more colleagues were swayed to our point of view this time round. There was a definite feeling that several with influence seem to have been convinced of the need for the post to be created.

Crucially, in the debate in front of the real decision-makers, conference delegates, we looked to have won the intellectual argument for the position. So we have 12 months now to renew our efforts to lobby our NEC members so that they drop their opposition and give us the open support that is needed to get the motion passed. Again, watch this space for news of the campaign.

Overall, while it’s true to say it may not have been the most exciting of annual conferences, we did get through a huge amount of business. Some 200 motions were dealt with and you can be confident that the freelance element of our union was well represented by our NEC and FIC reps and what is now a very tired Branch delegation. My thanks and congratulations go to each of them and I wish them a restful few days before we start work in the London Freelance Branch preparing for next year.

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