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The bill threatens not just rights & traditions in trade unionism, it is a threat to good journalism - #heartunions

© TUC

8 February 2016

Pete Murray

I applied to join the National Union of Journalists pretty well on the first day that I began working at the BBC World Service, back in the 1980’s.

Being in a trade union had always been important for me – whether it was working on an oil rig or in a secondary school – but with its illustrious history and strong traditions, becoming a member of the NUJ meant that I felt like a "real" journalist. For me, it was part of the whole skillset: shorthand, touch typing, microphone techniques, union membership card. 

The NUJ has helped me become more confident as a journalist, as a workplace rep and organiser, as a public speaker and as a citizen.

I am certain there are tens of thousands of other trade union members who feel just the same, because we know that this is what all great trade unions do: help build safer workplaces, better working conditions, negotiate fairer wages, and they also help campaign for justice and equality in the wider world. 

The NUJ is rightly proud of its record of supporting journalists seeking asylum in the UK after fleeing torture, abuse, or imprisonment without trial. I am proud to have assisted some of these courageous and principled people to secure refugee status in the UK and am proud to know them as friends and colleagues.

So, our union’s work is basic stuff, but it’s important stuff.

It’s about democracy and human rights: our human rights and the rights of those we work with, those we live with, in our offices, newsrooms and studios, and in our communities and neighbourhoods.

The trade union bill threatens those rights.

It is important that as workers and as citizens we defend and extend the rights that generations before us have won for us. That is why the campaign against the government’s odious trade union bill is so important.

After many years as a workplace rep, I know that organising strike action is a small part of the job. But when we are forced into a corner, taking industrial action is already a complicated process in which employers and the police have the upper hand. We are already not allowed to ballot in the workplace, or online; we cannot decide on timetables for industrial action on our own. The current provisions of the bill will make these tasks – already difficult, onerous and bureaucratic – almost impossible. 

Ministers also want us to hand over personal details of our reps, picket organisers and officials to the police, at a time when we know that intrusive surveillance, victimisation and blacklisting of journalists and trade union activists is continuing.

During a varied career in a range of newsrooms across the UK, I know that workplaces where the NUJ is strong are those workplaces where journalism is strong, where staff feel more confident about speaking up, where bullying is challenged, where people feel they have fair access to promotion, and where they feel they are not being treated like a piece of machinery.

The trade union bill threatens the ability of journalists to question their employers and challenge unfairness, low pay, stress, and unethical or overbearing employers.

The government has made no case for these vindictive, unnecessary and counter-productive proposals. The bill threatens not just rights and traditions in trade unionism, it is a threat to good journalism.

The NUJ is supporting the TUC week of action #heartunions to celebrate the work of the trade union movement and to campaign against the government's divisive trade union bill.

Tags: , tuc, heartunions, trade union bill, government, legislation