Wednesday, 6 June 2007

DEMOCRACY IN THE NUJ

Last week I sent an email to around 70 NUJ branch officials across the UK and Ireland, politely asking them to pass on a message to members in their areas about this campaign - and directing them towards this blog. I was concerned that, while members in the BBC and at a number of other chapels had made their feelings about the boycott abundantly clear, the National Executive would ignore them unless there was a wider call for a rethink from right across the union.
Unfortunately, I've so far received just three replies, one of them from an official who made it clear he supported the boycott and saw it as the union's job to pursue all kinds of political causes.

My worry is that this whole affair is showing the huge hole in the democratic structure of the union. Sparsely attended branch meetings elect delegates who go to ADM to vote through policies which most of their colleagues would not support if they knew about them in advance. But when I ask officials to give their members a chance to express their views on this issue, they seem strangely reluctant.

I've had other comments from activists who say people who cannot be bothered to attend branch meetings have no right to complan. But if that covers 99% of members (as it does) then the NUJ has a problem which it needs to address.

I've also emailed a number of friends at various newspapers to ask them to get involved in this issue. Most have replied that they have already resigned from the union in disgust. If we want to keep this union in good shape, then we need to make sure that journalists are proud to be members and believe their voices will be heard in union affairs - isn't, that, after all, the point?

2 comments:

Rosie Niven said...

Rory makes the point that the debate over the Israel boycott exposes the hole in the union’s democracy. While I personally don’t support the boycott, one silver lining is that we are having a debate about democracy.

As you may already know, members of the London Magazine branch recently set up a blog to discuss union policy. Our branch has a variety of views on the boycott and on the need for reform of the union's democratic structures.

I'm disappointed at the response from officials in the union to your letter. But having a blog offers an opportunity for members to connect and debate motions without having to go through officials. There are a number of your colleagues in LMB who agree that blogs, online forums and discussion boards should be used to encourage debate among members, especially ahead of ADM next year.

My view is that we should tap into the increased activity following the boycott decision to get members more involved in policy making. It's less than 6 months until members can submit motions for next year's ADM. I'm sure there will be a number who will propose scrapping the boycott. Your blog will keep this issue in members' spotlight until then.

whealie said...

Rory said: "I've had other comments from activists who say people who cannot be bothered to attend branch meetings have no right to complain. But if that covers 99% of members (as it does) then the NUJ has a problem which it needs to address."
may I repeat the point that the real issue is to change the way that the NUJ engages its members in decision making. I would like to see alternatives to meetings. I would like to see members involved using the net, email etc. There would still be thousands of members who would not want to get involved and many of those would still complain about the union and its policies, but at least with more people involved the policies we would adopt maybe closer to the ones the majority of members would accept. Please engage your campaign in ensuring lasting changes by supporting these sorts of initiatives.
Nobody should have to go to meetings - I attend them and many are as dull as a very dull thing with extra dullness added.