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Delegate meeting report

HERE we bring you not-quite-blow-by-blow reports from the NUJ's Delegate Meeting (DM) in Newcastle, which opened on 5 October.

NUJ GENERAL Secretary Michelle Stanistreet, opening the union's policy-making "Delegate Meeting" spoke of the funding crisis - see the Recovery Plan. Things are not going to get better by themselves: the union's actuaries predict that a valuation of the pension fund for union staff will report a shortfall of £2M to £4M in the Spring. Difficult talks with staff over a "sustainable pension scheme".

She mentioned the NUJ's support for LPB member Jason Parkinson in court - alongside the BBC and other media companies - to overturn an order to hand photos to the police. She mentioned a member in Northern Ireland whose name and mobile number had been graffitied "in places designed to cause maximum distress to his family" and the support that the NUJ in the island of Ireland had been able to offer.

And her star turn this year, in presenting the case for ethical media and against bullying of journalists to the Leveson Inquiry - and the need for collective bargaining in all media workplaces as an essential part of the solution to the issues facing Leveson. "Journalists need to know that they can't be sacked for speaking out" on ethical matters and "we need a conscience clause" ensuring that journalists can refuse to follow unethical orders and keep their jobs. Even Rupert Murdoch had to concede under cross-examination that this seemed like a good idea.

Copyright matters

The role of Google in undermining journalists' and other creators' rights to get paid for our work was a constant theme of DM's first morning.

DM passed London Freelance Branch (LFB) motion 8, which welcomes new alliances to defend authors' rights, particularly that with consumer groups and calling for more work to educate citizens on their rights in what they create - before something going wrong makes them realise what they've missed.

The Branch agreed to "remit" its motion 10, calling for the union to support independent research on the impact of government policy proposals. on the basis of a National Executive Committee statement of support for the principle, to be given in writing.

Friday afternoon...

DM heard from Frances O'Grady, General-Secretary-elect of the Trades Union Congress and an NUJ member, about the importance of the campaign for A Future that Works - and the demonstration on 20 October.

© Mark Pinder

DM heard from Frances O'Grady, General-Secretary-elect of the Trades Union Congress

Following card votes, proposals for Councils to represent photographers and members over 60 were both passed, the latter on an LFB motion. An LFB motion arguing the case for a Dead Members' Section was ruled out of order.

LFB's motion calling for a working party to investigate the strengths. weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the NUJ was defeated.

Saturday morning...

DM passed a motion to increase subscriptions by 5 per cent. Most of the morning was taken up with dicussion of the financial situation, culminating in a motion to censure the National Executive being passed on a card vote 79:63.

Following a close vote, DM will now take place every two years, making it a BDM. The Freelance anticipates with some trepidation a Biennial Delegates' Special Meeting.

A move to reduce the number of members of larger delegations, such as LFB's, was defeated 93:92 on a card vote.

Concern over a payment to the previous General Secretary, including that raised in a motion from LFB, was answered with a statement that it was not "severance pay", as minuted at the National Executive Council (NEC). It was in part in lieu of sabbaticals. The rest was payment for the remaining period which he was contracted to serve, following the earlier-than-expected unopposed election of Michell Stanistreet.

Saturday afternoon...

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes & Harlington and Chair of the NUJ Parliamentary Group, addressed DM. "There are three things we need," he concluded: "determiniation - and this union has demonstrated that; courage - you can stand up on your own, but you will discover the most important lesson is what we learned from the 19th century in the fields and the workshops: solidarity. Together we are strong.".

John McDonnell; © Mike Holderness

John McDonnell: determiniation, courage and solidarity

A motion that would have cut the share of members' subscriptions paid to London Freelance Branch, putting at risk activities such as publishing the Freelance, was dropped by NEC after representations from its members who are freelances.

DM passed unanimously a motion including elements from LFB offering support to Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre in defending the confidentiality of their interview sources.

The LFB motion calling for the review of media ethics around the Leveson inquiry to deal with the question of concentration of media ownership "composited" - edited together with text from other bodies - and passed.

Sunday morning

Sunday morning was all a bit of a blur for many delegates. There was continued objection to the NEC's demand that bodies to which the NUJ donates money should account for it.

We heard from Wai Hninn, the daughter of political prisoners in Burma, on how the small progress made there should not allow the British government's William Hague to stop mentioning human rights there. And Omar Farouk Osman. President of the African Union of Journalists, spoke of the situation in his home country, Somalia.

Last modified: 10 Oct 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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