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NUJ at TUC Congress 2015

14 September 2015

The TUC has committed to campaign to defend the integrity and breadth of the BBC in the opening session of its Congress in Brighton.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet told delegates that the BBC had struck a secret deal with the government and the deal will have catastrophic consequences for broadcaster’s budget and staffing levels at the corporation.

Find out about the BBC Love it or Lose it campaign.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:

"The government is proposing a diminished BBC and the privatisation of parts of the service.
"The ability of journalists and programme makers to produce quality content will inevitably be compromised unless we act together now."

Supporting the NUJ motion, John Callow of the GMB said:

"Unions should want bread for their members, but they should also want roses - and that is what the BBC provides."

Musicians Union general secretary John Smith, supporting the NUJ’s motion said:

"The BBC is one of the jewels in our culture, we cannot let the Tories tear it apart."

NUJ delegates at TUC Congress 2015 © Mark Thomas
NUJ delegates at TUC Congress 2015 © Mark Thomas

BBC and charter renewal - NUJ motion agreed at TUC Congress

This Congress condemns the secret deal struck by the BBC with the Treasury that transfers the funding of licence fees for the over-75s to the corporation. Turning the BBC into an annex of the Department of Work and Pensions will also imperil the editorial integrity and independence of the corporation.

The deal - struck without public scrutiny and engagement, and without the agreement of licence fee holders - will have a catastrophic impact on the BBC’s budget and will lead to further major job losses and cuts that will inevitably compromise the ability of journalists and programme makers to produce quality content.

Congress is concerned that the government's green paper proposes a diminished BBC and privatisation of parts of the service.

Congress further condemns the alliance of the BBC’s political and commercial enemies who are seizing the process of Charter Renewal as an opportunity to emasculate the BBC; with its online news operations and its breadth of popular programming particularly high in the line of fire. The Reithian values of informing, educating and entertaining are in real danger of being abandoned by those who fail to value a public service broadcaster that is respected and loved around the world as much as it is at home.

This Congress calls on the TUC to use the Charter Renewal process to campaign vigorously to defend the integrity, the breadth and the future of the BBC. 

In a subsequent debate, the TUC also pledged unanimous support to the NUJ’s Local News Matters campaign.

Andy Smith, NUJ joint-president, in proposing the motion, said:

"Local newspapers provide a vital part of the glue that holds our communities together. Without our support power will less and less be held to account."

Supporting Local Newspapers - NUJ motion agreed at TUC Congress

Congress notes government proposals to support local newspapers through business rate relief, currently under consultation, but believes that this falls far short of the inquiry into the future of local newspapers called for by Congress in 2014. Congress calls on the general council and affiliates to support  the NUJ’s Local News Matters campaign and its call for a short government inquiry focussed not only on the immediate needs of the sector, but also on promoting greater plurality and supporting local communities trying to protect titles from closure.

Congress further notes and welcomes the cross-party support from London Assembly members during the recent disputes at Newsquest in South and South East London and supports the idea of further work by the London Assembly into the health of local newspapers in the capital.

Undercover police surveillance of trade unionists -
Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) motion

Congress notes that in March 2015 it was revealed that Mark Jenner, a police officer serving in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), had infiltrated construction union UCATT and spied on its members.

Congress further notes that former police officer Peter Francis, acting as a whistleblower, has admitted that during his time in the SDS he spied on trade unionists in the construction industry and activists in the NUT, CWU, FBU and the National Union of Students.

Congress is aware that information on the files of workers blacklisted by the Consulting Association could only have been provided by the police or the security services.

Congress is alarmed that attempts to find out further information on the involvement of police officers in infiltrating unions has been blocked by the Metropolitan Police on the grounds of national security.

Congress believes that trade unionists who were spied on by the police have an absolute right to know why they were targeted in this manner.

Congress calls on the TUC General Council to:
i) campaign for a full independent public inquiry into blacklisting in order for these and other matters relating to how the lives of workers were ruined are fully revealed
ii) ensure that the inquiry being led by Lord Justice Pitchford into undercover policing and the SDS fully investigates the links between the police and blacklisting
iii) provide support and assistance to all unions whose members were subjected to secret police infiltration and surveillance

NUJ amendment to the UCATT motion:

Congress further resolves to support the NUJ campaign against surveillance of journalists and calls for further legislative changes, including an independent judicial process; automatic mandatory prior notification; and mechanisms to challenge and appeal in cases where the authorities, including the police, are attempting to access journalists’ communications, materials and sources.

NUJ national executive council member, Anita Halpin, spoke to the NUJ amendment and said:

"I am proud to be speaking in this debate. My husband Kevin was blacklisted by the Engineering Employers Federation in the 60s.

"Eighteen months ago we decided to take legal action on behalf of six of our members whose lawful journalistic and union activities had been monitored and recorded by the Metropolitan Police.

"Two of these will be well known to you. Photographer Jess Hurd and writer and comedian Mark Thomas.

"All six have in the past worked on media reports exposing corporate and state misconduct and had cause to pursue litigation or made complaints arising from police misconduct.

"When Mark, Jess and their colleagues gained access to their files they discovered that they recorded not only phone numbers and past addresses, but also appearance, sexual orientation and ex-partnersʼ names.

"In one instance a family memberʼs medical history was on file, And more trivially, the colour of Markʼs bike and the style of Jessʼs glasses we also recorded.

"Their files are now all on the Metʼs National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unitʼs database.

"Be in no doubt that this database is potentially a ʻblack listʼ waiting to be accessed - in all probability it already has been.

"We know journalism is not a new form of home-grown terrorism, but imagine the danger to my colleagues when travelling abroad if the Met shares this data or are requested to do so.

"In March this year a new code of practice covering authorisation to access mobile phone records was introduced. In July, David Cameron had to admit to parliament that two police forces had already breached this code.

"The NUJ welcomes the Pitchford inquiry - however limited its remit - and we too will be seeking core participant status.

"The UKʼs current surveillance laws have been ruled to be incompatible with the European Convention on human rights and the high court has ordered the government to introduce new legislation.

"We will be campaigning to ensure that, in future, the laws will be sufficiently robust to allow our members - and your members - to work freely, unfettered and without fear."

Download the final agenda for TUC Congress 2015

Tags: , tuc, tuc congress, motion, local news matters, bbc, love it or lose it, blacklisting, surveillance, ripa, police, metropolitan police, domestic extremist, legislation