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#DM18: Women line up to have their say

Women delegates queue up to take part in the equality debate  -  © Paul Herrmann

21 April 2018

The #MeToo movement has put sexual harassment centre stage and Debbie Calvadoro, chair of the NUJ’s Equality Council, said: “The tide is finally turning”.

In her report to DM, she said the scandals of Hollywood were soon apparent much closer to home as the level of harassment of women working in Westminster was revealed. “The Equality Council welcomes the union’s work in seeking to understand the extent of the problem and address all reports of bullying, harassment and bullying,” she said.

Natasha Morris, the union’s legal and equality officer, said much of her work had involved the NUJ’s submission of a collective grievance against the BBC of more than 180 women demanding pay parity.  “As 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the date some women were given the vote, the need for collective action to bring about equality is just as strong,” she said. The union had sent delegations to the TUC’s women’s, disabled workers’, black workers’ and LGBT conferences, hosted the Claudia Jones lecture with Chanel 4’s reporter and presenter, Fatima Manji, and shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott.

Delegates voted to support a motion which addressed the way the union could best create a strategy for recruiting, training and supporting equality reps and to ensure freelances have access to support their equal rights.

Arjun Wajid, NEC member, said: “This motion is a long time coming… a discussion about the need for a union-wide strategy to strengthen our network of equality reps, to train them and support their work.”

The main motion of the equality section, which was unanimously supported, was a blockbuster of a composite which set out a 10-point plan for the union to support women from sexism, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, to help women achieve a stronger public voice and to press for all sectors of the media to “adopt responsible reporting standards demonstrating respect for women…”.

Eleanor Lisney, London Independent Broadcasting delegate, said the union needed to support women so they felt able to come forward with complaints of sexism and “push for greater diversity in all newsrooms with intersectional representation, so more women can smash the glass ceiling and fill senior roles in the media”.

Natasha Burnal, of the Magazines and Books Industrial Council, said it was important that the union was able to provide a safe space for women to bring forward their experience of sexism and harassment. She said the NEC must draw up a code of conduct for paid and lay officials to “create a climate that would eradicate sexual harassment” which could be adopted by chapels.

Delegates heard that that lessons could be learned from the Stronger Voice for Women project in Scotland which, with support from the Scottish government, had run a series of events to give women more confidence to stand up to sexism and make their voices heard.

Deborah Hobson, of the Black Members’ Council (BMC), moved a motion which highlighted the structural and

deborah hobson London Independent Broadcast delegate 2018. pic copyright: Paul Herrmann
Deborah Hobson

institutional racism which had led to black workers being trapped in low-paid, zero-hours, contract jobs. She said that black people were twice as likely as white to be employed. “We welcome the work of the TUC and its report Is Racsim Real? which revealed that more than a third of black or minority ethnic workers polled had been bullied, abused or experienced racial discrimination by their employer.”Jim Boumelha, BMC representative, said the consequence of black workers being trapped in lower-paid jobs was that one in four BAME children lived in poverty, poor health and became victims of the criminal justice system.

The motion, passed by DM, called on the NEC to support the BMC in efforts to work with other unions to put pressure of the government to follow the recommendations of the TUC’s report, including the adoption of zero-tolerance of racism in workplaces, new legislation forcing employers to publish data on race and recruitment and clearer procedures for reporting discrimination.

Annie Pike, of the Health and Safety Committee, made it her mission to remind DM that discrimination was a health and safety issue, covered by the legislation.

A Disabled Members’ Council motion committed the union to update its disability handbook for journalists reporting on disability issues and to hold a Reporting on Disability event to support journalists in improving ethical writing on disability matters. Ann Galpin told DM that one in five people identified as disabled and she urged branches to make sure their facilities for meetings were accessible.

Louise Bolotin, Manchester and Salford branch, said the union should support reporters put under pressure from their editors to publish stories which demonise disabled people. “We need to back colleagues so they are able to write ethical journalism and resist pressure from the top,” she said.

John Jones gave up his position on the rostrum as a proposer of a motion from the Photographers’ Council which noted that the photography sector was one of the most gender-unbalanced sectors of the union, with only 17 per cent being women. Because the council’s two delegates were men, they decided to give the proposer’s three minutes to Natasha Hirst, a female photographer.

DM passed the motion which called upon the NEC to consider ways it could support women photographers, particularly older women who tended to disappear from the profession. Natasha said that among photographers in their mid-50s, 90 per cent were men. She said: “Stories need to be told from all perspectives – not just men's. We need to encourage more women activists to take up roles on the union’s decision-making bodies to make the issue of under-representation in photography a priority.”

Tags: , #dm18, delegate meeting, southport, equality council, equality rep, equality reps training, #MeToo, sex discrimination, sexism, sexual harassment, equal pay, bbc, lgbt, diane abbott, fatima manji, Stronger Voice for Women, Black Members’ Counci, health and safety, Disabled Members’ Council, Photographers’ Council, dm2018