Monday, June 16, 2008

A weekend in Sheffield

I’m just heading back on the train after three days at the annual conference of Trades Union Councils which I chair (yes, that is how i spend my weekends!).

These bastions of socialism in the community are (slightly) on the up but they need a real injection of youth to help them grow further. The NUJ did its best bringing Sam Southgate from the York Newsquest strikers to Sheffield to speak to the conference. More than £210 was raised along with lots of pledges of support.

Trades Councils bring together activists across different unions and work alongside community campaigns to ensure the collective voice of trade unions is heard locally but they suffer from low attendances, too few activists and being neglected by too many unions. They should be real vital organisations but too many are not and conference is a chance to share best practice and seek to continue the steady growth there has been over the past few years.

At the tail end of last week I had meetings with Joanne Butcher, Chief Executive of the NCTJ to discuss training issues – and to try (again) to develop a more constructive relationship. I like Joanne Butcher but we seem to spend a lot of time fighting each other. She just seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She has consistently said the NCTJ want to work with us but there has been little action to deliver it. That makes people suspicious. Hopefully this time we can overcome the suspicion and get on with the kind of positive work Joanne and I discussed.

I also met with Paul Evans the new co-ordinator for the Federation of Entertainment Unions to discuss the responses to the latest Ofcom consultation on public service broadcasting and went with colleagues from BECTU and the GFTU to see a potential new building for the three organisations. Of course such a move has sparked rumours of merger and widespread redundancies – neither are true.

I was due to attend my first meeting of the Publishing Skills Council – but at the last minute my invitation was withdrawn. It looks like the Newspaper Society still can’t bring themselves to sit in a room with the NUJ.

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