The review reviewed

THE London Freelance Branch Committee held an extra meeting on 4 December to discuss the General Secretary's proposals for changes to the union. The committee welcomed the process of review and the consultation document.

We particularly welcomed the support for building freelance networks. But (we're freelances, of course there's a "but") we caution there are many freelances who aren't in a position to join a network - for example because they work for many small clients.

And even when re-recognition of the union eventually leads to freelance agreements and to strong "chapels" at more publishers and broadcasters, it'll be difficult for freelances to get involved in them. So we'll still need support from lay freelance organisations like the freelance branches and Freelance Industrial Council - and from more Organisers at the union's offices; finding the money for whom is of course the point of the review.

And there, as Ros Bayley noted last issue, is the rub. The review proposes saving money on the union's representative bodies. The Branch is agreed that the NUJ must continue to be a union headed by "lay members" - activists who are working journalists - in distinction to those unions that are led by their paid officers.

A couple of Committee members felt it was absolutely essential that the union continue to have annual Delegate Meetings. Others feel that, if spending on representative bodies does have to be trimmed, it is more important to keep the National Executive and bodies like Freelance Industrial Council meeting regularly to develop and monitor policy month-to-month - and for the latter to have a budget for projects like the Freelance Fees Guide. Which might mean bi-annual Delegate Meetings, saving of the order of £100,000 a pop.

On 9 December the Branch voted to forward the Committee's comments. The full response is below.

LFB Committee response to Building our collective strength

The meeting was called specifically to discuss the document Building our collective strength. This response really only makes sense when read in conjunction with the document.

Parts 1 and 2 (Intro and background):

The committee welcomed the process of review and the production of the document.

The committee did not comment on every section of the document - where it made comments, these are summarised below.

Part 4: Group chapels/ freelance networks

  • The committee was in favour of networks (4.1) and believed that networks needed support from Headland House.
  • It also wished to remind Headland House that freelance networks will not be appropriate in many situations in which freelances work.
  • While the committee welcomed point 4.3, (group chapels should have a freelance representative) it wished to remind Headland House that: a) much freelance work is outside chapel organisation and b) in-house freelance representation is not always possible.

Part 5: Training

  • Training programme facilities and funding should be made available for trade union issues as they relate to freelances including making a success of networks.

Part 6: Staffing

  • The committee welcomed plans for extra staffing, but felt it was necessary that the present staffing situation is monitored to ensure that the present staff allocation is not necessarily understood as being proportionate to the needs of the various sectors. (That is, the present proportion of staff allocated to each sector should not be assumed to be right.)
  • Not all sectors have the same levels of need for help and support from headland House.
  • An organiser still needs to be available to advise freelances, either as individual, directly, or through networks.
  • Chapel representatives can help over freelances to a certain extent, but will only be able to do so fully when freelance clauses and/or freelance clauses in staff agreements are widespread.
  • There will always be cases where individual freelances need direct help from an organiser.

Part 8: Membership

  • In addition to recruitment, the NUJ needs to give equal importance to retention of members.

Part 11: Managing change

  • The new way of dividing the NEC9s work (campaigns and communications) should be reflected in its committee structure. That is, there should be a Campaigns Committee (instead of existing Policy) and an Organising/ communications committee (instead of the existing development committee. The Finance committee should be retained as it is.

Part 13: Other sources of income

  • It is a good idea to get advice about the NUJ maximising its income, but we believe that it is important for the NUJ to hang on to its assets.

Part 14: ADM

  • We agreed that, as it stands, ADM is less than satisfactory.
  • The goal should be that the NUJ continues to be lay-led.
  • The committee was divided on the issue of ADM itself: some members believed it was important to the union9s democracy that meetings should be held annually, while others felt that if savings had to be made to retain lay activity, such as industrial councils, then we should be prepared to change to a biannual delegate system.
  • It would help debate at ADM if each motion had three at least tabling bodies endorsing it in order for it to be put on the ADM agenda. This would mean the prioritising motions would be in the hands of tabling bodies rather than SoC.
  • The size of the delegation - the committee did not reach a conclusion on this and left it to the branch to decide.
  • It was opposed to the idea there should be a rule-changing ADM only every three years.

Part 15: The NEC

  • The committee felt it was appropriate to lower level of NEC representation for London.
  • It believed that the NEC should meet at least every other month.

Part 16: Industrial Councils

  • The committee believed that Industrial Councils have a crucial role and should be encouraged rather than diminished in influence and size.
  • It believed that if, in some cases, ICs have fallen into disrepair, this has been the result of the loss of agreements and that, with the growing number of agreements, ICs will increase in importance.

Part 17: Elections

  • The committee was in favour of on-line voting.

Part 21: Information Technology

  • The committee believed that getting personal email addresses for UJ members and using these was very important.

Part 23: Relationships with other unions

  • The committee endorsed the idea of close relationships with other unions, and agreed that there need not be a choice between amalgamation or complete separation.

Part 25: Lobbying

The committee endorsed this section.

Part 26: International

  • Paragraph 26.1 names an individual - the committee assumed that it means the role of the elected representative on the IFJ executive, rather than the individual named.
  • Paragraph 26.7: the committee agreed that an international element to the Union9s activity is very important.
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