TUCYW2016: young workers back NUJ motion on press freedom
© Mark Thomas
29 June 2016
The 2016 TUC Young Workers' Conference was yet another excellent event for young labour activists to meet, socialise and plan for the future of the British trade union movement as well as trying to promote the interests of young workers within the TUC.
There was little in the way of the controversy, at least in terms of the political motions – opposition to austerity, support for safety at work and promoting a national living wage.
Support for the creative arts, an important topic for the Federation of Entertainment Unions (of which the NUJ is part) was a major focus, as was the rights of sex workers, a topic that I was previously woefully uninformed about.
One major change, which sounded a note of contention in some quarters was the successful passing of a motion to change conference standing orders to the effect that the chair of the conference would be elected by the conference delegates, rather than simply being chaired by the young workers’ representative on the TUC General Council.
An NUJ late notice motion condemning the closure of the print edition of the Independent newspaper at the loss of 100 jobs, as well as the Guardian's announced plan to shed around 250 jobs at its offices, passed unanimously at the conference.
Though there is a large amount of suspicion from labour activists towards the news media – much of it justified – it is reassuring that young trade union activists are happy to speak and vote in defence of a free press and media workers' jobs.
Coming on the back of comments like those of Stephen Hull, the editor-in-chief of Huffington Post UK who claimed journalism was not “authentic” if the writer were paid for it, trade unionist in all industries can understand the difficulties that young media workers face in simply getting compensated for the work they produce.
The election of a trade union-supportive Labour leadership means that a new momentum exists for young workers to get active in the movement and the TUC YWC is a sign of the possibility of such a movement. With Tory anti-trade union legislation just now coming into effect, the union movement faces an uphill struggle in the fight for social justice, workplace democracy and equality.
This conference notes with dismay the closure of the print editions of the Independent newspaper and Independent on Sunday and the 100 jobs expected to be lost as a result.
The last print edition of the Independent was on the 20th of March, leaving it as a purely digital publication. The move is being made, in the NUJ’s words, “on the cheap” and will entail staff moving from print to digital taking pay cuts, poorer conditions for all and the loss of many experienced journalists.
The closure of the Independent also comes as the Guardian Media group announces that it plans to cut 250 jobs and threatened the first ever compulsory redundancies at the paper, with the intention of slashing 20 per cent from the Guardian’s budget with the aim of breaking even within three years.
Low pay, the loss of stable jobs, falling circulation and the unwillingness of the Conservative government to support genuine media reform are all contributing to an environment that is neither good for media workers nor the general public.
A free, plural press is absolutely vital for our democracy - media ownership is increasingly being placed in fewer and fewer hands and those hands overwhelmingly use their papers to push right-wing agendas, which are, among other things, viciously anti-union.
This conference calls on the TUC to support freedom of the press, fight for journalists’ jobs, support the search for alternative media funding methods, campaign for a diverse and pluralistic media in which working journalists have a greater input in their terms and conditions and support the NUJ's call for an independent inquiry into the press.