Trades Union Concerns
LONDON FREELANCE Branch member Tim Dawson has a regular column in the Freelance online, including reports from gigs he attends in his capacity as NUJ President. See www.londonfreelance.org/president for the complete stories. Here are some highlights of the columns and of this year's Trades Union Congress:
Trades Union Congress
Tim reports from the recent Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference in Brighton. He looks at the paradox of soaring Labour Party membership figures at a time when union membership continues to decline. He describes TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady as "the movement's most dependable wit" and brings in evidence her imagining the Cabinet as a disruptive class taking advantage of a hapless supply teacher. Theresa May's approach to Brexit was "more like a letter to Santa than a negotiating strategy".
Another highlight of Tim's report is the Musicians' Union General Secretary's description of premonitions of post-Brexit travel abroad for gigs - with a very unusual request from a member that requires a working knowledge of beasts of the Pleistocene epoch.
Justice needed in Qatar
Tim gave a speech to TUC on Qatar, in which "the NUJ has a particular interest because we have a collective agreement with Al Jazeera's London newsroom, alongside members of Bectu. This is the only collective bargaining agreement that exists with Al Jazeera." Of course the station is based in and funded by Qatar, which is is under pressure from Saudi Arabia and others to silence it - and needs to look to its own human rights record.
Let fairness drive out fakes
Tim surveys the scene of work rights of freelances and "false freelances", in particular at Thompson Reuters, where the company "required" its freelance subs to operate as limited companies. NUJ vice-president Sian Jones addresses Trades Union Congress on a composite motion calling for improved workers' rights for freelances. including the NUJ's vital observation that some of us want to be freelance.
The end of tabloid might?
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn addressed Congress - and Tim interviewed him ahead of his earlier address to the NUJ's National Executive Council (NEC). Jeremy's first job was as a reporter on a local newspaper: he is a member of the NUJ, supports "journalists being able to be employed to work independently and report what they see," and tends to agree that the tabloid editors are a busted flush.
Support workers in trauma
London Freelance Branch co-chair Pennie Quinton addressed Congress in support of a composite motion calling for funding for mental health support for workers who suffer trauma due to their work. As Pennie said, the NUJ is concerned by the high incidence in newsroom journalists of secondary post-traumatic stress disorder due their routine exposure to raw footage from war zones, terrorism and natural disasters. "Journalists working on the ground in conflict situations expect risks to their mental health," she explained, but "journalists in news rooms are suffering in silence the unexpected consequences to their well-being following their editing, day in and day out, extreme content for news reports.
"The NUJ urges employers to provide more support for staff to protect against "long-term mental health problems that will impact not only on their individual well-being but also their home and family life."