Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh we do like to be beside the sea

It's TUC Conference week and the NUJ is once again making a splash. On the opening day we won TUC support for our motion on enforcing effective rights to collective bargaining for freelances and casual workers. Tom Davies, secretary of the London Freelance Branch moved the motion and won unanimous backing for our call for freelances to enjoy effective rights to representation both individually and collectively at work. There are millions of freelance and casual workers in Britain denied the most basic rights at work simply because of their employment status - in many cases being forced in to a bogus freelance status for that very reason. The NUJ is making this injustice the subject of one of our major campaigns this year.

Alan Gibson from the London Magazine Branch spoke in the debate on the Trade Union Freedom Bill, highlighting NUJ concerns over the denial of the right of members working for one newspaper owned by a multinational to take industrial action in support of other members working for the same parent company - so-called secondary action. The law is an ass and denies UK workers the rights enjoyed by all other workers across Europe. It is to the shame of the New Labour government that 10 years after they opposed Margaret Thatcher bringing in such laws they refuse to repeal them. Gordon Brown in his speech yesterday lectured us on pay restraint but never once mentioned any extension of trade union rights.

I was able to intervene in the discussion on Redwatch - the neo-nazi website which targets journalists amongst others - seeking to intimidate our members from exposing the criminal backgrounds of many BNP and other far-right councillors and activists. More than 50 NUJ members are listed on the site and some have been physically threatened or had their homes attacked as a result. Some newspapers have responded by taking individual journalists off covering the story.

For years the NUJ has campaigned alongside other unions for the police and government to act against the criminal elements behind Redwatch. Despite lots of promises there has been little action. I asked the TUC to seek an urgent meeting with the government to press again for action. No sooner said than done. This afternoon the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to address Congress and she has agreed to meet with me to discuss the issue. I'll update the blog on progress.

I was also able to speak in the debate on private equity today highlighting the concerns of the union over the takeover of media companies by private equity companies who have more concern for short-term profit than delivering quality media and drew attention to our Stand Up for Journalism campaign.

* The NUJ delegation is made up of the General Secretary and President Michelle Stanistreet, and elected delegates Anita Halpin, David Beake, Alan Gibson, Tom Davies, Rotimi Sankore and Jeff Apter.

Further information is available at www.tuc.org.uk

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