The branch at NUJ DM 2021

The branch had a very successful time at the NUJ’s Delegate Meeting (DM) 2021 a couple of weeks ago. The conference business took place on Zoom over 2 days and the branch’s delegation was the full eight people for the first time ever.

More notably, seven of the eight were first-time delegates at DM, with only branch chair and delegation lead Matt Capon having previously attended a DM.

The branch put forward a number of motions to modernise how the union works. Key motions passed were:

  1. Allowing chapels to approve new member applications (proposed by Christina).
  2. Replacing proposer and seconder on the form with something clearer and more useful (successfully proposed by Ruby in the face of strong opposition).
  3. A motion instructing the union to survey the levels of non-unionised staff in our workplace and to look at expanding the union’s membership criteria to recruit them (proposed by Nino. Our original suggestions to also look at other options were defeated in a confusing seriatim vote!).

Our motion in changing the union’s name to just the NUJ was amended to an instruction to the union to consider changing its name. Simon did his best, but there was strong opposition to an immediate change and delegates voted for the compromise.

Alannah proposed our solidarity motion with the I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist website, which was accepted.

Matt successfully intervened with our amendment to a great motion extending our student membership to include graduates who haven’t yet got a job in journalism. Our only issue was the name and DM agreed that Developmental Membership is better than Probationary Membership.

Nima was due to speak on our motion about the union doing more for our members who have been made redundant. Alas, the timetable changed as the meeting dealt with business faster than expected. So Matt stepped in and successfully defeated an NEC attempt to change the instruction to develop training courses to “investigate developing”. As Matt said, he didn’t investigate making a sandwich at lunch, he just made one.

Finally, there was a motion about organising in foreign-owned media, in particular Arab media, that we amended to focus on congratulating our members in Alaraby and Iran International on achieving recognition. Tooba seconded the motion, putting the focus on how difficult it can be for journalists from other countries to get help if they’re not unionised.

It is important to ensure that the exact text of motions as agreed is circulated, particularly when motions are amended by other parts of the union. The text that was agreed is below, including an Arabic translation below:

Late Notice Motion 7, as amended

DM welcomes the recent successes in achieving recognition at Alaraby and Iran International. DM congratulates the members at both companies whose long fights to achieve recognition in the face of numerous obstacles are an inspiration to us all.

This DM notes that:

The UK in general and London in particular has become a world centre for foreign news media production. In particular, the Arab market has recently seen the arrival of a number of new journals, papers and media outlets, which in some cases rely heavily on the financial backing of certain wealthy states and individuals, often therefore operating as vehicles for the aims and objectives of their backers.

A number have bases in the UK.

This DM notes that in some instances employment practices have fallen significantly short of those championed by the NUJ and reasonably expected by workers in the UK. Among these have been the denial of opportunities to experienced and well-qualified journalists because of their national background or political perspectives.

This DM also notes that there have also been instances of bullying, sexual harassment, racial and sexual discrimination and the arbitrary termination of contracts – often with visa implications.

With union representation secured at Al Jazeera and now Alaraby, the union is in a strong position to recruit and organise in the rest of the Arab-owned media in the UK. There is clearly much still to do to secure full trade union protection for all journalists working for foreign-owned news media outlets in the UK.

This DM therefore instructs the NEC:

1.To develop links with journalists and media workers (both employed and unemployed) working in this sector and to work with branches such as the London Central branch and the London Independent Broadcasting and New Media branch, both of which have been working to establish links with journalists in this sector, as well as with the Black Members Council, to build on what has already been done and recruit to the union and gain recognition across the field.

2. To work to defend all employees’ rights to freedom of expression and the respecting of differences on political views by the employers.

3.To place the demand for ethical journalism based on our code of conduct at the heart of our work with all media, including UK-based foreign-owned media.

4.Work with TUC sister unions to build the NUJ’s presence in this sector and to take action to organise a one-day event to bring this work to broader attention.

DM 2021 Late Notice Motions and amendments, available online

The text of the motion is available in Arabic. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to format the text properly, so it’s attached as a PDF instead.

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