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Union-busting British Association of Journalist to be reported to the UN’s International Labour Organisation

15 July 2020

Lord Hendy, the Labour peer and one of the country's leading experts in UK labour law, is to lodge a complaint to the International Labour Organisation on behalf of the NUJ over the union-busting deal between the British Association of Journalists (BAJ) and Iran International.

BAJ clinched a sweetheart deal with Iran International, despite the overwhelming number of journalists there being members of the NUJ who were engaged in a recognition bid. At the time there were no members of the BAJ at the broadcaster.

Since then a senior manager has become the BAJ “rep”. The NUJ has received reports of pressure being put on staff to join the obscure, non-TUC-affiliated union. This has created a climate of fear, particularly as many of the journalists depend on their job for their visa to live in the UK.

The NUJ had been supporting members at Iran International who have faced harassment and threats to their families in Iran, and threats of action against them in London, by Iranian state officials. Similar tactics have been used against staff in the BBC Persian Service over the past decade. As an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, the NUJ has lobbied the international community, via the UN, in support of press freedom and to put pressure on the Iranian state to stop its intimidation of journalists.

A letter sent by the NUJ chapel asked BAJ, and its national executive committee, to withdraw its agreement, saying: “As a chapel of minority ethnic workers, our voice has been completely taken away from us by an organisation that pretends to stand up for workers.”

Iran International is a Persian language television channel owned by Volant Media UK Ltd.

Matthew Myatt, BAJ general secretary, claimed to an NUJ official that he had been surprised by the offer, but justified it by saying it was like walking past a sweet shop when the owner comes out with a big bag of sweets and offers them to you for free. “Of course you’re going to say yes.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“Our members are not pick-and-mix to be traded. This is a shabby sweetheart deal clinched behind closed doors that has denied our chapel – the overwhelming majority of editorial workers – the collective voice they have been working to secure. BAJ has acted in an unethical and unprincipled way, trampling over these workers, in actions that have caused outrage among the trade union movement and beyond. That is why will take any steps necessary to get them to drop the agreement and respect the rights of our members."

Messages have been flooding in to the union and on social media in support of the NUJ Iran International chapel. 

The issue has also been raised in Parliament in an Early Day Motion.

Tags: , iran international, british association of journalists, baj, trade union recognition, john hendy, lord hendy, Volant Media, trade union rights, ilo, International Labour Organisation