Last weekend’s NEC had a heavy agenda and was the last for the outgoing council with elections now underway in some regions. However, the old NEC will continue to operate until the end of the year with meetings of the Policy, Development and Finance Committees being held in November. They will report to the new NEC at its first meeting on 6 January 2012.
An early item for discussion was the current situation regarding the election of a new deputy general secretary (see story on an earlier blog of mine on 5 October). After a long discussion which included a number of legal questions and the attitude of the Certification Office who oversees these elections, the NEC agreed a new timetable. Ballot papers should be going out in next few week, with deadline to be decided, but in time for the result to be endorsed at early 6 January NEC meeting (for further updates check with the NUJ web site at: www.nuj.org.uk )
We received a full report of the serious situation following the announcement by BBC Director General Mark Thompson’s misnamed ‘Delivering Quality First’ report announced last week which included 2,000 job losses, cuts in redundancy terms and allowances and other proposals that risk irreparable damage to the BBC. It means a 20% cut in spending over 5 years, taking on additional responsibilities for S4C, local TV, funding for the rollout of superfast broadband to rural areas from 2013 and also funding the World Service and BBC Monitoring from the Licence fee (frozen at £145.50 until 2017). The union, with support from the NUJ parliamentary group is calling for the licence fee deal, ‘negotiated’ behind closed doors last autumn, to be reopened. BBC reps have set up a ‘fighting group’ to plan response to the cuts, which is meeting at Headland House this week today. It was also reported that during a meeting of BBC staff in Belfast on Friday 14 October, Mark Thompson, said: “If you’re really that unhappy, if you think that you can’t do your best work here then leave – no-one is forcing you to stay.” The NEC put out a statement of condemnation which can be seen on the NUJ web site.
We discussed at length the union’s response to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press and agreed a report and our witness statement which the general secretary had submitted to the Inquiry earlier this month. There was considerable anger that the Inquiry had denied us ‘Core Participant Status’. This means a person (or organisation) will be represented by a barrister and can seek to cross-examine witnesses and make opening and closing statements. Some 50 alleged victims of ‘media malpractice’ have been granted the right to be ‘core participants’. They include author JK Rowling, actors Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller, and the family of murder victim Milly Dowler. We will continue to press for this, more especially when it is known when detailed evidence is being submitted.
Other decisions in brief: A budget for the next 12 months was agreed. In her report Michelle Stanistreet floated the idea of returning to annual conferences from 2014 (but they would be smaller and shorter). A full report will go to the delegate meeting in Newcastle in 2012 where a decision of the future frequency and organisation of conference will be made. The budget itself is tight in order to ‘balance the books’ and real efforts to improve recruitment will be required given the job losses that are stacking up. On 30 November Pensions Strike we agreed a statement (which can be seen on the NUJ web site) which calls on editors in newspapers, radio and television to ensure that coverage of the major public service strike is fair. John McDonnell MP Secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group gave a report on parliamentary developments from July to date and the Council discussed a number of issues to be taken up by the group including cuts at the BBC and their impact in Wales and Scotland, Leveson, and the role of the Certification Office in trade union elections.
Finally the Council congratulated members in South Yorkshire newspapers working for Johnson Press in Doncaster, Mexborough and Selby, who had been on strike since 15 July to defend jobs and good quality journalism and only agreed to return to work after 55 days when it was clear that the management was prepared to undertake serious negotiations.