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Congress backs campaigns on workplace bullying, mass surveillance and to scrap the lobbying bill

11 September 2013

The NUJ's motions to campaign against workplace bullying and the erosion of civil liberties, democratic rights and mass surveillance won overwhelming support at TUC Congress.

An emergency motion called for the scrapping of the lobbying bill and the NUJ supported a call for an inquiry into blacklisting. The themes covered by Congress included the cuts and hardships caused by the government's austerity measures and attacks on trade union and civil rights.

Tom Davies, NUJ national executive member and a freelance journalist with the Guardian, told Congress he had been alarmed by the raid on the newspaper office by agents of the government, apparently at the behest of the Prime Minister, to confiscate material and smash computer hard drives because of the revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Later, David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the sinister level of secret mass surveillance of mobile phone calls by the American and UK security services revealed by Snowden, was detained at Heathrow airport. He said:

"This motion is not just about an attack on one newspaper or one whistle-blower, but about a whole range of threats, not to just our members doing their jobs, but to civil liberties and democratic rights more generally."

He said many people in the hall would have experienced being kettled by police – being contained without arrest – so the police could take details of protesters. It was becoming harder to organise demonstrations and the mission creep of anti-terrorism laws is undermining civil liberties.

Journalists, he said, have been put in danger by police attempting to make them instruments of the state by demanding they hand over photographs and video footage. The union has resisted this. He said:

"We need to be concerned that all this amounts to an abuse of individual privacy which is, at heart, an abuse of political power. We have a right to know about it. Our members should be applauded, not attacked, for exposing it."

Simon Weller, Aslef national organiser, supporting the motion, said the unprecedented industrial scale of the USA's NSA and UK's GCHQ secret data trawling and Internet surveillance reminded him of time he spent in GDR. He said:

"East Germany security services would have dreamed at this level of surveillance; we are sleep walking into it. William Hague says, 'If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear'. But who decides who has done wrong? Don't forget we were, and still are, 'the enemy within'."

Speaking to the motion, Paul McGoay, of the Public and Commercial Services union, said the Interception of Communications Commissioner had authorised 570,000 requests from the police and security services – a 15 per cent increase on 2011. His union represented workers at GCHQ, he said, and his members must be protected from being made to acting illegally and from being involved in the mass surveillance of the citizens of Britain.

The TUC also unanimously passed a motion on workplace bullying. Barry McCall, NUJ president, told Congress that strong trade union organisation in the workplace was the only truly effective way to stop the shocking levels of bullying in work places and to promote a culture of collectivism; a culture where in the words of Larkin "an injury to one is the concern of all". He said:

"Having been a journalist and trade union activist for more than 30 years I thought I was beyond shock. Then I read the report on bullying in the BBC compiled by NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet.
"Michelle spoke to dozens of current and former BBC employees in confidence and took depositions from them about their experiences at the hands of the world's finest public service broadcaster. To describe the report as harrowing would be to put it mildly. In more than one case a member's life was put at risk by the bullying actions of their superiors.
"This report came hard on the heels of the revelations of the Leveson Inquiry on the bullying culture prevalent in national newspaper newsrooms. That culture led directly to the unethical behaviour exposed by Leveson."

The NUJ, with the support of our sister unions in the Federation of Entertainment Unions, has organised the Creating without Conflct campaign to highlight the need to eradicate the stain of bullying from our industries and workplaces everywhere. Members can register for the FEU conference on the issue in November on the NUJ events page. Barry McCall said:

"We are now asking this conference to give its full backing to that campaign and to place the fight-back against bullying firmly at the front and centre of all of its campaigns."

TUC Congress passed a motion calling for blacklisting to be made a criminal offence and for a full public inquiry in the practice. The NUJ supported the motion and supports the TUC day of action on Wednesday 20 November. The NUJ is involved in the campaign against blacklisting.

Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed Congress and Anita Halpin, NUJ delegate, gave her views to the BBC. She said:

"Eighteen months or so before a general election, not to have clear policies in place is a complete mistake. Ed Miliband's attitude towards unions is mistaken too. There's nothing wrong with a collective affiliation that represents the sum of individuals' feeling.
"The Labour Party was set up to give a voice in Parliament to workers. But Ed Miliband has given in too much to an agenda set by David Cameron and that affected his reaction to the Falkirk selection issue. I've no doubt that a strong Labour would be the first step to turning around the austerity policies of the coalition. We need that."

More details and footage of the debates can be found on the TUC website.

The NUJ motions in full


Tags: , tuc, lobbying bill, blacklisting, bullying, edward snowden, whistleblowers, protection of sources, gagging law, ethics, leveson, bbc, guardian, newspapers, broadcasting, police, nsa, gchq, surveillance, pcs, feu