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#DM18: NUJ launches Journalists Need a Pay Rise campaign

Julie Armstrong calls for a campaign to get journalists a pay rise  -  © Paul Herrmann

21 April 2018

“Are there any speakers against long lunches?" asked Tim Dawson, NUJ president and chair of the session at DM.

Conference had been debating a motion about the success of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post’s “Longest Day Lunch”, an initiative to highlight the legal rights and the health benefits of taking a break.

Richard Evans, Leeds and Wakefield branch, said all editorial staff in Leeds had been invited for lunch on the longest day, with funds from the chapel to provide cake for the occasion. The motion called on the NEC to promote the idea throughout the union. “Get your dinner break – support the motion,” he said.

It was a light moment which contrasted with the desperate tales from other delegates about poverty pay, high levels of stress and the growing gap between workers' wages and the executive pay of media bosses. Delegates were told how Newsquest staff had been treated with contempt – a decade-long freeze breached only last year as the company CEO, Henry Faure Walker, admitted to earning £149 an hour day, pocketing £1 every few seconds, as evidenced by the pay meter set up by the union to monitor his remuneration.

DM agreed to send a delegation to the shareholders’ meeting of Newsquest’s American parent company to “eyeball” the Gannett top brass.

The wages, payments and conditions section was opened by Julia Armstrong, South Yorkshire branch, who works on the Sheffield Star. She said the union should look to the successes of the disputes in the fast food industry and the lecturers’ union UCU and launch a Journalists Need a Pay Rise campaign. For all those journalists who had suffered pay cuts for so long it was a “no brainer”. The campaign would also include finding ways to address the gender pay imbalance.

In line with that campaign, a further motion gave the NEC the task of investigating the potential benefit to NUJ members of the implementation of the Living Wage, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation as £8.75 an hour, £10.20 in London.

A motion proposed by Deborah Hobson, chair of the Black Members’ Council (BMC), and endorsed by DM, instructed the NEC to continue to press the broadcasting companies which are part of the diversity initiative Project Diamond to provide meaningful and transparent data on the number of BAME staff behind and in front of the camera. It called on the union to persuade the broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, to set equality and commissioning targets for broadcasters, with penalties for those who fail to meet them. She said the NUJ and sister unions would only lift their boycott of Project Diamond if the broadcasters provided the information on a programme-by-programme basis.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, seconding the motion, said: “There is an obvious reason why the broadcasters are hiding from full disclosure; they know the ugly picture it would reveal.”

A worrying trend of aggressive attempts to derecognise the union by the publishing and magazine industry was identified by Fiona Swarbrick, ‎national organiser, magazines/books/press and PR. New Scientist had succeeded and Rough Guides was attempting to remove union recognition.

The trigger appeared to be when NUJ members were transferred to another employer. A late-notice motion proposed by Liz Else, for London Magazine branch, put part of the blame on the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE). DM voted to instruct the NEC to campaign for reform of TUPE so collective agreements were protected and to issue guidelines to chapels undergoing the process.

But not all news was bad in the sector, an attempt by Penguin Random House to ditch the NUJ was roundly repulsed by the union and elsewhere recruitment was blossoming, with Nature ready to make an application for union recognition, Fiona said.

Tags: , pay, pay and conditions, gender pay, newsquest, henry faure walker, johnston press, #dm18, dm2018