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NUJ DM 2009 discusses cuts and future of journalist

27 November 2009

Delegates from across the union have debated and voted on motions that will lay out the framework for the NUJ's work over the coming 18 months. The NUJ's policy-making conference took place between 20-22 November 2009 in Southport.

A number of the key motions were passed by the conference. A team of NUJ student members covered the event in detail.

Fighting cutbacks

The conference was dominated by the cutbacks that have been imposed by media organisations over the last year. Speakers from across the NUJ spoke about the battles they had fought to protect jobs and maintain quality against a background of tough economic conditions and managerial intransigence.

From Hachette in Edinburgh to the Yorkshire Post, from Radio Foyle to RBI, delegates spoke about how the cuts were impacting journalists' abilities to do their jobs well.

The conference sent a clear message that fighting cutbacks and standing up for quality journalism must be at the heart of everything the NUJ does over the months to come.

Shareholdings in companies

Delegates voted to buy small shareholdings in media companies to enable the union to quiz board members at annual general meetings.

Where next for our profession?

An investigation into how the future of local media can be funded is to be launched by the union. The conference called on the union to lead the debate about alternatives, engaging with editors as well as local communities.

The conference also called for lobbying to put in place a strengthened public interest test when considering media mergers, something that has been advocated by the House of Lords' Communications Committee.

The union's research will also look at what role local councils could play in securing the future of local journalism. It will examine both the law in relation to councils being involved in local media, as well as the ethical implications around public bodies taking a role in organisations that should be holding them to account.

Link Mark Thompson's salary to the people he manages

The NUJ will launch a campaign to persuade the BBC Trust that senior figures in the corporation should have their pay set by a formula based on journalists' salaries.

The call for the BBC Director General to be paid up to five times the median salary for BBC journalists has already been made by the union's World Service Newsroom chapel.

NUJ members in that part of the BBC are currently voting in a referendum organised by union reps. They took their proposal to the conference, which has now called on the union's National Executive Council to widen the campaign.

Changes to subscription rates and timetable for NUJ conferences

The way in which the NUJ should focus its resources was also subject to debate at the delegate meeting.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, went before the conference a number of times to speak about the financial challenges facing the union. He pointed out the fact that cutbacks across the industry have an impact on the union and it has to ensure that it is using its members' money as wisely as possible. He urged delegates to act to ensure that the NUJ is able to give its members the support they need.

After debate on the floor of conference, it was agreed to increase union subscriptions to between 8p/€0.08 and 15p/€0.15 per week. The rules that mean nobody needs pay more than one per cent of their income are unchanged. The new subscriptions will be introduced in March 2010 and members will be notified of the changes in advance.

It was also agreed to change the union's rules so that its delegate meetings, like the one in Southport, need only be held once every 18 months. Previously they have taken place every year.

The conference is important to the union as it is the supreme policy making body and at the heart of the union's democracy. The NUJ's national executive committee argued that extending the period between delegate meetings by up to six months would save tens of thousands of pounds, while leaving the democratic structures intact.

NUJ bodies elected

As well as setting policy, the conference also elects people to represent members on various NUJ bodies. These include the union's equality committee, its delegation to the TUC and the union's professional training committee.

Tags: , adm09, hachette uk, edinburgh, yorkshire post, radio foyle, rbi, cuts, quality journalism, shareholders, bbc trust, bbc, pay and conditions, bbc director general, subscriptions, nuj democracy