DM2011: President Pete Murray stresses importance of marches
5 April 2011
Pete Murray, NUJ President, opened the NUJ delegate conference in Southport by stressing the importance of recent marches and rallies against the cuts programmes of the UK and Irish governments.
"We are at a historic moment. Anyone who was on the 26 March demonstration in London will know that. Anyone who's been involved in a student occupation will know that; anyone who's been on a bank bail-in will know that; anyone who's occupied their local library or community centre will know that; anyone who's watched the images of people in the Maghreb and the Gulf occupying the liberation squares of Egypt, Tunisia, Oman, Bahrain and Libya will know that; anyone who's been on a NUJ picket line in the last year will know that.
"We are at the start of a new era of activism and in the NUJ every one of us should welcome the growing coalition of resistance and defiance.
"Just as the magnificent Dublin demo of 27 November last year and the Irish elections showed Brian Cowen's Fianna Fáil had no mandate to attack the public sector in the IMF imposed budget cuts, so the UK coalition government has no mandate to impose these cuts on us – this government had no mandate to slash the BBC's funding by 16 per cent at a stroke – no more mandate than Mark Thompson had to agree to it.
"This government had no mandate to launch an unprecedented attack on local government journals and newspapers; this government had no mandate to tear up the budgets for libraries and learning; and this government has no mandate to torpedo the lives in retirement of millions of public sector workers by attacking their pensions, any more than it has a mandate to wreck the lives of more than 20% of young people thrown onto the dole and discarded just as a previous Tory government did in the nineteen-eighties.
"This conference is an opportunity to take some time to look back and learn from our successes over the last eighteen months. But it is our central task here to look forward – to study the threats we face, and come to grips with how we will fight them together, in unity, with confidence and determination."
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, addressed conference and said:
"This year we have marched together and taken our banners to the streets of Dublin, Glasgow, Cardiff, London, Belfast and towns and cities across the UK. We have marched together but we must now also be prepared to strike together. And we must do so together not just because we have a passionate belief in economic and social justice but because the cuts hit our members hard.
"At the BBC, they have been the justification for the pensions robbery unveiled last year; the backdrop to the craven submission by BBC management to government demands for a frozen licence fee coupled with massive new spending commitments; the excuse for the closure of language services and the axing of hundreds of jobs at the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring.
"Now they are the justification as we face the Orwellian Newsspeak of Delivering Quality First - which will cut a further 20 per cent from BBC spending, threatening thousands more jobs and services.
"If we are all in this together how come BBC bosses are still raking in £500,000 in bonuses? If we are all in this together how come BBC bosses are retiring with million pound plus pay offs, or some BBC bosses are getting double digit pay rises at a time of pay freezes, how come at BBC Monitoring or BBC World Service it is hundreds of frontline reporters, producers and news-gatherers not senior managers who disproportionately face the chop?
"And while the BBC considers plans to cut programme making, and threatens the future of local radio, it spends £10m a year on consultants in the UK and pays senior managers upwards of £50m a year, every year.
"And yet they tell us there is no alternative to their cuts.
"Let the BBC hear this well - we will not stand idly by while you wreck services and force skilled staff out of their jobs. We showed in the face of the pensions robbery we were ready, willing and able to fight to defend our terms and conditions so we stand today ready willing and able to fight compulsory redundancies and to defend services.
"But the BBC is not the only place that jobs and terms and conditions have been the victims of the economic crisis or such corporate greed and rank hypocrisy has been on display. Or where union resistance has made a difference.
"At Newsquest, at Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror, at Northcliffe, across books, magazines, commercial broadcasting and new media, pay freezes, job culls, attacks on freelance rates and rights, title closures, the axing of editions and specialists are the latest visible manifestations of an industry beset by corporate failure and unbridled greed.
"The picket lines, the lobbies of shareholders meetings, the demonstrations at company HQs and the public protests are the visible manifestation of our rejection of their corporate vandalism.
"As Sly Bailey and Paul Davidson and other media executives receive increased pay, bonuses and pension payments is it any wonder journalists ask what kind of a system is it that rewards the boss of a news organisation for sacking journalists, closing papers and losing readers?
"In the face of so much bad news, it is sometimes possible to think there is nothing we can do - this union and its members continue to prove even in the direst economic circumstances our collective action makes a difference."
"We've shown over the past 18 months that our commitment to fight for journalists and journalism stretches from starting out in your career to retirement.
"Day in day out, we stand up for journalists but we must never forget we have a historic mission too, to stand up for journalism."