Cameron and that TUC invite – it’s the NUJ what done it!

Within days of the union’s NEC passing a motion deploring the decision of the TUC general council to invite prime minister David Cameron to address Congress in Manchester in September, Cameron decided not to come. Instead we may get Vince Cable! The motion deploring the decision to invite Cameron and moved by Anita Halpin associated the NEC with the anger and opposition to the invitation being expressed by a number of unions and urged the general council to reverse its decision.

Jeremy Dear, who sits on the general council, was not at the June meeting of the general council which issued the invite, and told us that he would be out of the country when the next meeting was to take place. I seconded the motion on which there was a lively discussion. In the end the motion was carried by 9 votes to 6 with 2 abstentions. Jeremy agreed to tell the general council of our decision before their meeting.

Getting more women members involved

Just how can the union encourage more women to get involved and active is a serious question that we need to address over the next few months, the NEC has decided. In her report to the NEC Michelle Stanistreet, deputy general secretary, reminded us of the debate and decision taken at our last delegate conference and the fact that at the conference there were 106 male delegates to just 48 women delegates. On the present NEC there are 2.5 posts held by women, two job sharing and one job sharing with a man. Change was needed to achieve a broader representation of women at the next conference; at the next NEC elections and on other elected union bodies at national and local levels.

An ad hoc working group had been set up (on which I serve) and its recommendations were supported as a basis for further action. If you have any suggestions please let me know or send them directly to Michelle at the NUJ.

Interim budget for 2010/11 agreed

The NEC agreed the budget from the union’s finance committee. It’s unlikely to be the end of the story as at the moment it’s not a balanced budget and would be revisited before the end of this year. Although subscriptions had increased over the past 12 months, due to the subs increase, job losses were working through and contribution income was expected to be down. Recruitment must be a priority for us all if the union is to survive in its present form.

Johnson Press – an update

At the May NEC meeting (see my report ‘NUJ members hit by anti-union laws’ – 23 May) we were forced to call off a programme of industrial action following a legal challenge from Johnson Press plc. Put simply Johnson Press who publish around 180 press titles claimed that they employed no journalists. These they claimed were employed by their multiple subsidiary companies. Although Johnson Press called all the industrial policy shots, the state of the anti-union laws allowed them to challenge our ballot and get away with it. Some have suggested that the union should have also balloted members on a workplace by workplace basis (See comment ‘Smell the coffee’ – 24 May). This was done in one workplace, but the majority of our members saw this as a national dispute, not one with their local management.  So there are lessons to be learnt for the future; that you can never be too careful when balloting for action; that of course the law is stacked against us, but we have to take every care to aware of legal traps that are always out there!

Meanwhile there are some gains – the report to the NEC stated that once the national ballot results were known, some local management had lifted the pay freeze and started negotiating with the union. Settlements between 1.5% and 2.2% had been won (where previously nothing was on offer). Conversely this had resulted in chapels no longer wished to re-ballot (as I reported was the intention in May) so the re-run of the ballot locally was now ruled out we were told, although some local disputes continue.

BBC staff pensions under attack – industrial action authorised

The NEC was told that BBC management was proposing to devalue current pension scheme rules, to allow no more than a 1% annual increase in the amount of members salary that can considered toward their pension, irrespective of any pay rise or promotion they might get. They also proposed to close the pension scheme to new members. The proposals had caused anger amongst many of our members, and that anger had increased following recent revelations of a multi-million pound pension slush fund for senior BBC executives. The fund saw BBC director general Mark Thompson receive a reported £163,000 pension top-up last year alone, while deputy director general, Mark Byford stands to receive a £400,000 pension under the arrangements.

The July NEC agreed to give the general secretary authority to ballot for industrial action, unless the BBC management withdrew their proposals for the 1% cap. As they have refused, balloting is due to start, with a closing date reported to be 1 September.