A brief rundown of some of the highlights of the NEC meeting held on Friday 8 October.Perhaps the most important report was that given by the general secretary on the pensions’ dispute at the BBC. Jeremy Dear said that this was a significant dispute not only for our BBC members but for the rest of the trade union movement, as the struggle over pensions moved centre stage for more and more trade unionists and their dependants. He gave a detailed report of the changes proposed by BBC management, which, if accepted would result in staff losing thousands of pounds in benefit during their retirement. He also gave details of a new offer from the BBC management which was now being balloted on by members of all three unions (BECTU, NUJ and UNITE) the result of which would be known by 28 October. There was also some speculation regarding the future funding of the BBC World Service and the licence fee and further announcements were expected in connection with the government’s comprehensive spending review on 20 October – see the NUJ response on the NUJ web site at: www.nuj.org.uk
The council went on to pass a motion congratulating the stand taken by negotiators and lay representatives in all three unions in building a powerful campaign against attacks on the pension scheme and pledged full support for future action.
As the Hutton report on the future of pensions had only just been published, it was agreed to ask the union’s policy committee to draw up a motion for the next NEC meeting and that the matter should also be debated at next year’s delegate meeting.
NUJ member Charles Atanaga received wide applause from the council when he spoke of the union’s high profile and, to date, successful campaign to prevent his deportation. The previous day his case had been adjourned at the high court for three months and this period was important for building a stronger campaign. Branches are urged to invite Charles to their meetings and contact their MPs to win their support against his deportation. Details are on the NUJ web site.
Support for the family of Ian Tomlinson in their demand for justice and a proper investigation into Ian’s death was given by the Council following the circulation of a motion from the London Central Branch. It was agreed to circulate an appeal to branches and put a link to the campaign on the union’s web site.
The question of payment for photographers was again discussed following the resolution passed at the last meeting (and reported on my blog) and had also been the subject of considerable debate in the pages on the Journalist. Speaking in support of the photographers, freelance organiser John Toner reminded us that they had no collective bargaining rights and that the union had campaigned long and hard against poor pay for freelancers (for which John was warmly appauled). If other trades unions had problems with the photographers’ rates, which were guidelines, he would be willing to enter into negotiations with them. This approach was agreed.
In brief – the turn out in the recent NEC election in the south west was 22.7% and it was agreed to ask the Finance Committee to look at ways of raising the Council’s profile to improve voter turnout; The People’s Charter – on a vote the NEC decided not to circulate information about this campaign; it was reported an NUJ recommendation that the TUC set up a legal solidarity fund to help unions fund legal challenges by employers against industrial action was not included in a composite motion at the September’s Manchester Congress. It was quite clear that this was because a number of larger unions did not support the idea, so rather than face defeat at Congress, the proposal was withdrawn. Jeremy Dear said that he would try and pursue the issue through the TUC general council; and finally the council wished broadcasting organiser Sue Harris a speedy recovery from illness.
The next NEC meeting is on 26/27 November when it will consider its motions to the 2011 delegate conference in Southport from 8-10 April.