This article in the Journalist by my BBC colleague Nick Serpell - who is on the NUJ's National Executive - sums up better than I could what we believe about the direction our union is taking:
I joined the NUJ for a variety of reasons. I wanted the assurance that I would have help and support if anything went wrong at work. The NUJ negotiates my annual pay deal and I did not believe it was right to take advantage of this without contributing to the union. I also believe in a free press and the right of all journalists to report the truth and keep the public informed without the fear of threats, intimidation or worse. Journalism matters and, long before the campaign of that name, it has always mattered to the NUJ.
What I and thousands of NUJ members did not do was join because we wanted to be political activists or have our subscriptions and the name of our union linked to campaigns and organisations which we either do not support, or which have nothing to do with journalists or journalism.
The recent decision by ADM to call for a boycott of Israel is just the latest in an attempt by some members to use the NUJ to pursue their own political beliefs. The same applies to the move to get us to affiliate to CND, happily defeated, or the current call for a ballot as to whether we should affiliate to the Campaign for Climate Change.
I have two main objections to those who would use the name of my union to support their own causes. Firstly impartiality and independence should be the watchwords of any journalist and it is particularly important for your fellow members who work in public service broadcasting. It undermines our ability to do our job if our union is taking a public stance on contentious issues.
Secondly, I do not want the money I pay each month to this union to be diverted into organisations which I do not support. If you, as an individual, want to join the Stop the War Coalition, boycott Israel or join CND you have every right to do so. But, don’t assume all your fellow members feel the same and don’t use my subscription, and link my name to your campaigns. I want my union to be concentrating on journalism and journalists, not acting as some sort of quasi political party.
I don’t think I am alone in this view. At the time of writing over 300 NUJ members in the BBC have signed a petition calling for the vote on the Israeli boycott to be reversed. That’s five times the number of people who supported it at ADM.
Other unions may want to play politics, but, in my view, we are not other unions. By all means follow your own beliefs in your own time, but let’s keep this union politically independent. We will be the stronger for it.
Keep signing the petition:
BALLOT ON NUJ BOYCOTT Petition