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  5. SOC Recommends - A guide to DM

SOC Recommends - A guide to DM

Understanding delegate meeting

This guide is designed to help steer members of tabling bodies (branches, councils and the national executive council) through the potential minefield of the Delegate Meeting (DM) and the process of tabling motions and amendments.

If, after reading this guide, you are unable to find the answer to a query on how to table a motion or amendment, on how to put a motion in order or on any matter of procedure or order at DM, please contact any member of SOC.

What is Standing Orders Committee (SOC)?

SOC is elected by DM. Its members are the servants of DM. We are members of the NUJ and are not paid officials. The committee advises on procedure and considers every motion and amendment. It does not rule. It only recommends.

It tries to allow conference to achieve full and fair debate on the agenda within the rules of the union·and the standing orders of conference.

SOC meets for two days immediately after the last date for receipt of motions. It recommends which motions are in order under the NUJ rule book. It recommends which motions are out of order and states why. It then puts the motions under subject headings, selects certain motions which seem to cover others (selected motions) and places the subjects in an order in which it hopes they will be debated at DM. It plans a rough timetable for conference and also writes the proposed standing orders.

After amendments are received, SOC meets for another two days. It recommends whether amendments are in order or not and whether they have put 'faulty' motions in order.

Each section of the final agenda is allocated to an DM elected member of SOC.

If you have any queries before DM, contact the person whose name is indicated alongside the subject headings at the beginning of the final agenda.

SOC has no responsibility for ballots conducted during DM.

Timetables for tabling motions and amendments

Although the process leading up to DM may seem complicated and bureaucratic, it is necessary in order to keep within the NUJ rules. By following a few simple guidelines, tabling bodies can make things far easier.

Each year, depending on the timing of DM, all tabling bodies will receive a circular listing a number of dates. You must adhere to these deadlines, so keep the circular safe and refer to its contents as necessary.

The first important date is that for the close of motions and nominations. All nominations and motions for the preliminary agenda must be received at NUJ headquarters on or before the date specified. So it is a good idea to arrange your branch or council meeting to debate your motions well in advance of the closing date. Then send the motions to Headland House immediately.

You can email, fax, post, or hand-deliver the motions and it is a good idea to hold on to some form of proof of sending (receipt of posting, fax record for example). Email is prefered as text does not have to be re-typed and this avoid potential 'human error'.

Writing "in order" motions

In framing motions for DM, there is one thing you should constantly have by your side: your up to date version of the NUJ rule book. Almost every motion recommended out of order by SOC is flouting some rule or other.

Ensure you are addressing the right body. If you ask the wrong person to do something it can't do under rule then, however sensible your motion may be, it will be recommended out of order. For example, it is no good "instructing" or "asking DM" to do anything. After conference is over it can't action anything!

You also have to address the body in the right manner. You can and should instruct the NEC to do most things, but there are exceptions. For example, under the rules, it has sole authority to decide whether or not to spend money on legal advice and litigation ( rule 8 (w) (i) ) and only the NEC can call members out on strike (rule 21 (a)). You cannot instruct the Editor of the Journalist to include material as it would be counter to the code of conduct. Nor can you instruct the NUJ appeals tribunal or the charitable funds to do anything. But you can "urge or request strongly" any of them to do something.

And please don't attempt to change any of the rules by an amendment to a motion on the preliminary agenda or a late notice motion. That is against the rules too (rule 22 (c) ); reason being that rule change motions should be subject to debate and amendment at branch and council.

Another failing is sometimes getting the facts wrong. SOC will recommend these motions out of order "contrary to the facts". Do check with the body you are about to praise or censure. Be sure who actually was responsible for the action that prompted your motion.

Avoid the jargon trap! Edit what you have written; see it says what you intend, and will make sense even to fellow journalists who may never have heard about your branch's particular problem. These are the motions SOC recommends out of order "void for uncertainty of meaning".

Please make sure that reports, laws, bills and events are clearly identified in motions. Please also provide information on organisations referred to in motions.

Don't assume all other tabling bodies know who you are writing about. They have to know to be able to take a decision.

Finally, do make sure that your motion involves DM deciding a policy. Calling on or only requesting the NEC to do something can be done outside DM - it doesn't need a decision of conference. Neither does "noting" an event or report. A motion can "note" something, but it also requires an instruction or the clear setting of policy to meet the terms of rule 9 (a) (ii).

Please give motions one last check before you send them in. You know what they mean; SOC might not. SOC will change spelling, grammar, rule numbering and minor textual errors, but can't make changes requiring guesswork on what it thinks you might mean. If there is an error you will have to table an amendment when you see the preliminary agenda.

Changing the rules

A word about rule-change motions. Do not try to write the text of proposed new rules. Other branches and councils need to know the principle you are suggesting. And anyway it's against rule 22 (d) to write it in textual form! Unless a principle is not being changed.

What is needed is sufficient detail for the NEC to know exactly what you mean - enough from which to write a rule. That's SOC's test, and that's what's meant when a rule change motion is recommended "Void for uncertainty of meaning". The SOC may understand what you mean, but a clear rule could not be written based on the motion.

There is a specific style for rule change motions. The NEC must be instructed to change the rules. The following should open all rule change motions: "This DM instructs the NEC as a matter of urgency to amend the rules to give effect to the principle that." You don't have to name the rule or rules in question, but it does help other branches and councils.

Finally, remember you may only change the NUJ rules by tabling a motion in the preliminary agenda. It's too late when you get to the amendment stage, and you can never change the rules either by late notice motion or emergency motion (rule 22 (c)).

Holding motions

If you know that something is going to happen before DM, but after the closing date for motions, it may be useful to table a "holding motion". It could say something along the lines of: "This DM notes the recommendation of the yawn committee on ancient monuments." Then, when you know exactly what the yawn committee has said, amendments from yourself, and maybe others, can give a more detailed reaction.

Standard form

When drafting any motion, there are standard forms of style that are easy to use and that help to avoid obvious pitfalls. A motion passed by a branch or council has to be transformed into a wording that can be used by DM. Several times motions have been submitted beginning "South Fenland branch agrees... or something similar. Now, while it may be obvious what the branch means, DM simple cannot make a branch's mind up for it. And, although SOC could suggest that it might be given the power to change such a glaring error, the general dangers of such power are so great that SOC would rather bear the irritation of being told - as its members often are - that recommending it out of order is petty and pedantic. So start your motion "This DM".

The preliminary agenda

The preliminary agenda, comprising the motions with recommendations and the standing orders is distributed to all tabling bodies.

Each tabling body should then consider:

  • Whether or not it wishes to proceed with a motion it has tabled. If the answer is yes then it must be confirmed in writing to the general secretary by the date indicated on the DM timetable for the 'close of amendments'. Unless it is a selected motion an unconfirmed motion will not appear on the final agenda.
  • If another similar motion has been selected the tabling body should consider amending that motion and dropping (not confirming) its own. This makes life much easier later on (see compositing).
  • If a motion is 'recommended out of order' the branch or council can seek SOC advice on how to amend it to put it in order.

Writing amendments

Don't waste time on an amendment registering your branch's absolute disagreement with a motion: that's a direct negative and will be recommended out of order. You will have the chance to vote against the motion at DM.

If your motion is recommended out of order on the Preliminary Agenda, don't just confirm it: amend it to put it in order. If you don't understand what's wrong get in touch with SOC for help.

And, if all you want to do is say 'this motion should apply to us, too' - think about how to make it apply. That may widen or narrow the scope of the motion too far, however, and constitute 'widely new matter'. There isn't a 'correct' version for an amendment, but please make sure it reads correctly.

When you say 'delete all after xyz and insert yzz', please make sure it is not ambiguous and it says what you mean. Watch out on numbered paragraphs. By 'delete first paragraph' do you mean the first unnumbered paragraph, numbered paragraph 1, or (i)?

And finally - remember - you cannot change the rules by amendment; although, of course, you can amend a rule change motion - but don't add any new or wider rule changes!

Late notice motions

If you have missed the deadlines, it is probably too late, unless the issue is sufficiently serious to be a late notice motion.

Late notice motions may include motions on the annual accounts and may be submitted up to the deadline given in the DM timetable (usually, 12 noon on the day preceding DM). They must be agreed by a quorate meeting of your tabling body and they must involve decisions that cannot be taken other than by a delegate meeting (so don't use meek and mild words like 'believes' or 'notes').

Late notice motions must relate to events that have occurred since the latest date for the receipt of motions. The fact that you forgot to table a motion is not a good enough reason for a late notice motion. You will be expected to convince SOC that there is a strong case for a late notice motion (LNM).

Part of the reason for the long time gap between submission of motions and DM is to give others a chance to see and discuss what is going to be decided at conference. LNMs do not give members that time. For that reason alone, the LNM is a device that should be used sparingly.

The final agenda - containing all the selected motions, confirmed motions, all amendments and LNMs received at the time of going to press - is printed and distributed to all tabling bodies.

Delegate meetings

First day business

SOC meets a couple of weeks before DM to consider the first day's timetable. Draft order papers for each DM elected member's section are considered and then sent out to all the involved tabling bodies (branches, councils and NEC) before DM.

A delegate from each of those involved tabling bodies is called to a meeting of SOC, usually the day before DM to agree the order papers. Please read them very carefully. You should seek at the meeting with SOC to change order papers if you are unhappy about the way motions and amendments have been handled.

SOC meets throughout DM without a break (during the day!). It will call delegates to its room to formulate and agree all the following order papers (consultation meetings - sometimes called horsetrading sessions). Many are complex where several motions are 'composited' to try and ensure there will only be one debate on each subject.

This is also your chance to reason with SOC and other tabling bodies especially if your motion/amendment has been recommended out of order. Please watch out for the notices (usually on a screen in the hall).

DM conference hall

DM policy is that no banners advocating particular policies or politics are allowed in the hall other than official NUJ banners.

The president sits at the centre of the top table and chairs the meeting. To their left is a member of SOC. Each delegation is allocated a place in the hall: please don't change seats as no one will be able to find you if you are needed.

At each side of the platform is a microphone.

As you face the platform, the left hand rostrum is the for position, for movers, seconders and supporters of motions and addenda and for speakers against amendments.

The right hand rostrum is for speakers against motions and for movers and seconders of amendments· the against position.

Get in the queue at the correct microphone in good time. The people waiting there may well be for the next motion or amendment.

Give your name and tabling body when you speak.

Papers to take with you into the hall:

  • rule book
  • final agenda
  • order papers

As you go into DM, you'll be handed order papers - the agenda for DM. They are printed on yellow paper. It is advisable to arrive early so you can read them carefully. The order paper will list annual report sections, motions and amendments in the order they are to be debated. It will give the wording of composite motions and detail the timetable and time limits for speakers. There is currently no time limit for speeches on·sections of the annual report.

Challenging an order paper

If you think that the order paper disadvantages your tabling body, you need to be prepared when the SOC moves the order paper at the start of that paper. Stand near the microphone and call out 'reference back' immediately the paper has been moved. You will need to give your reasons.

Do not speak to your motion at this stage. If DM agrees to reference back, SOC will re-prepare the paper.

This may be easy and quick to do, but sometimes it can delay business considerably. Attending the compositing discussions will ensure that you do not need to call for reference back unnecessarily. These sessions enable SOC to ensure everyone gets a fair chance in debate. Far better to admit your inexperience at a compositing session behind the scenes than in front of DM in an embarrassing and sometimes acrimonious exchange.

Once the order paper has been accepted, the order of business cannot be changed. The recommendations of SOC have become DM's rulings.

Time limits

Time limits for speakers are recommended by SOC and are printed at the top of the order papers. Green, amber and red lights usually guide you. Soon after you see the flashing red light, the President might switch off the sound! Map out what you are going to say and time it. If you are really desperate you can call for an extension, but bear in mind you will need a two-thirds majority of voting delegates present to grant you that extension.

Debates must end at the time agreed on the order paper. Any left-over business will be brought forward by SOC as soon as possible, bearing in mind the problems of fitting it in, and on a first come first served basis.

Voting and procedure

Conference standing orders:

Voting is normally by show of hands' (holding up your credential card). The president is in the best position to see how the vote goes. But, if you really believe he or she is wrong - stand up and call for scrutineers. Scrutineers are elected at the start of DM and they count the votes when the president calls for them or when conference votes for them to do so.

A count can delay business so don't call scrutineers lightly. They also count ballot papers so they have enough work to do.

If you feel that a debate is pointless, you can call for 'next business' if your branch hasn't spoken. Or, if you think speakers are hoeing well-tilled ground you can ask that 'the question be put' normally by calling vote. All these procedural motions require a two-thirds minority to be carried.

Important points to remember are:

  • be sure you have a seconder for your motion or amendment
  • you can't accept an amendment if that would preclude debate on another amendment
  • you can move/second formally and reserve the right to speak later
  • an amendment is debated and voted upon before a subsequent amendment is moved. Don't speak to a later amendment
  • movers of motions have a right of reply. There is no right of reply to an amendment
  • if you ask a question don't make a speech
  • a delegate cannot speak more than once on the same question other than exercising a right of reply
  • a cut off time for amendments to Late Notice Motions is included in Standing Orders. They should be brought to SOC by that time
  • and remember one tabling body cannot withdraw a composite- that requires all the signatories.

Emergency motions

If you feel there is a grave and urgent matter affecting the union that could not have been brought to DM's attention earlier, you may consider bringing an emergency Motion to DM. SOC can offer advice, but be careful not to waste your time. Emergency motions are covered in rule 9 (d) iii (C). They cannot even be laid before DM unless SOC is convinced they meet all the criteria covered in the rule.

These criteria are:

  • they concern grave and urgent matters affecting the union
  • they require immediate action for which the authority of a delegate meeting is required
  • and they are tabled and submitted to SOC by not fewer than five tabling bodies.