Proud of my union, Michelle Stanistreet’s message to DM

  • 21 May 2021

Despite the pandemic, the union has carried on sterling industrial work, increased membership, brokered new recognition deals and championed journalism.

Michelle Stanistreet gave her speech to DM as she started her third term as general secretary of the union and gave tribute to the staff, officials and reps saying:

“The collective efforts of our dedicated staff and officials, teamed with our truly brilliant network of chapel reps, branch officers and activists, has meant that in the face of a crisis our industrial engagement and activity has been extensive and unparalleled – at a time when members have needed the NUJ more than ever, I am proud that our union has risen to that challenge.”

She said the past year had shown what makes the NUJ distinct and unique.

“Without question our collective work makes clear our industry deserves a union focussed on providing a voice to journalists and on journalism. For that we need an independent union that is resourced properly and able to fulfil its mission – which is as a vibrant campaigning union, with officials that are accessible and engaged, and where the highest possible support and services to members is provided.

“That’s why this Delegate Meeting is being asked to agree a modest rise in subs, and to bring to an end seven years of income stagnation that has put huge pressure on the union’s operation. That’s the major decision we have to take later today. I believe we owe it to new entrants to the industry and to future generations of journalists to ensure that the NUJ continues to afford them protection, support and a strong collective voice.  I hope that together, at this unique and important delegate meeting, we can make that happen.”

Scores of cases supported by the NUJ industrially and legally had yielded several millions of pounds in salary arrears, she said, and pension contributions for our members. It also inspired many cases in other workplaces and helped start overdue conversations amongst colleagues about the need for greater pay transparency and real pay parity. She said:

“The necessity of meeting virtually has also provided us an opportunity to do some things differently, and to reach out to engage the wider membership in issues DM will debate and set policy on. This week we put on a packed programme, with 5pm Talk In events each evening, lunchtime training courses, fringes and last night’s special event to celebrate the work and life of NUJ Member Lyra McKee. Hundreds of members and activists from across the union’s nations and regions, along with guest speakers from around the world have been able to come together and participate. And tonight we have a comedy gig headlined by Mark Thomas, with the chance for people signing up to make donations to our charities.”

The union has been hugely active on the industrial front, the same has been true on campaigning and lobbying, she said.

“This has been on a whole range of issues including the News Recovery Plan and the future of the industry, defending Freedom of Information and transparency and ensuring journalists can work safely and unimpeded, to demanding a Fair Deal for Freelances, the rights for media workers to operate seamlessly across borders post-Brexit and fighting to preserve public service broadcasting.

 “Ensuring our members and reps have felt connected and engaged with the union during a time of crisis has been a priority. As well as The Journalist continuing its work – sent direct digitally to members in order to offset drops in expenditure elsewhere in the union’s budget – our campaigns and communications team upped communication with members, producing special Covid-19 editions of NUJ Informed, and launching a new regular edition of NUJ Branch which has shared great content, good practice and new ideas amongst our activist base throughout the past year.

“Our training teams across the union have also pulled out all the stops, ensuring members were able to add to their professional skills during a challenging period of time. More trade union training courses have taken place than ever - over 90 courses have taken place over the past year, with a whopping 112 new reps now through their initial training and up and running.”

She applauded the recognition deal reached at Iran International for the 100-plus strong chapel, recalling how “emotional and bittersweet it was for those of us involved” after members stood in solidarity with colleagues at Iran International when BAJ struck a secret sweetheart deal with the company aimed at thwarting  the bid for recognition.

She  praised the “brave chapel at Bullivant Media in the West Midlands, who took strike action over four days during the lockdown, and successfully fought to get unpaid wages restored and deliver a new editorial protocol”.

Health and safety has been a major theme of work throughout the past year – ensuring workplaces and staff have robust and clear Covid policies and procedures in place to guarantee safe working  -- and the NUJ now has over 140 health and safety reps across the union.

She said: “Our campaigning has also been stronger than ever – and goodness knows, there’s been plenty of issues that have required our determined energy and effort."

  • Pushing for support for the self-employed and freelances; campaigning to close the shocking gaps in provision; launching our Freelance Charter and Fair Deal for Freelances call;
  • Lobbying for support for our News Recovery Plan across the whole of the union; making sure the voice of journalists and journalism has been heard strongly in liaison with governments here in the UK and in the Republic;
  • Liaising with our sister unions around the world and continuing to prioritise international solidarity at this time of greatest need to stand up for media freedom; defending Freedom of Information; protecting public service broadcasting; securing the launch of the first ever National action plan for the safety of journalists;
  • Building the strength of our cross-party work in parliament and raising our concerns on the Police, Crimes and Sentencing Bill;
  • Opposing new proposals in the Covert Human Intelligence Bill and the the threat to journalists and their sources in the Overseas Operations Bill;
  • Highlighting the adverse impact of post Brexit travel regulations;
  • Continuing to oppose the extradition of Julian Assange to face charges under the Espionage Act – a decision that would pose a significant threat to national security reporting around the world.

She praised the work of the union’s charities – especially NUJ Extra, which played" a blinder" throughout the year, providing a vital lifeline to members who found themselves in financial difficulty after the pandemic struck and the George Viner Memorial Fund which helped more black and minority ethnic aspiring journalists get onto training courses.

“We’ll hear directly from some of those members during conference. It has been heartening to see members and branches dig deep to offer their support – with a special shout out to Glasgow branch, which recently made amazing donations of £7,000 to each charity," she said.

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