Annual Delegate Meeting 2003

Winning ways

ON FIRST glance, the agenda for this year's union Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) in Llandudno looked like a procedural nerds' dream, packed as it was with motions and proposals on the union's structural future. But the union's growing "real-life" relevance was also reinforced by speakers from a range of areas on important workplace battles and victories, from the BBC to the war in Iraq to northern local papers.

Rations - © Dave Rotchelle
Rations for a hard day at the conference, Llandudno-style
photo © Dave Rotchelle .
And although debate was robust it was mercifully concise (and very well organised), and, on several key issues, key democratic safeguards were won. The General Secretary's strategic review has been discussed in these pages before and, in two areas where the branch has expressed concerns, amendments were secured. The proposal to limit the membership of industrial councils such as the Freelance Industrial Council to nine was felled by a joint amendment from the branch and FIC calling for a proper review of industrial councils leading to recommendations for next year's ADM.

The review's suggestion that union National Executive Council members be elected every two years, rather than one as at present, was similarly defeated by a branch amendment. We were also successful in ensuring that the power to set subscription rates remains with ADM rather than an inflexible inflation+0.25 per cent formula proposed.

Our motions offering support for journalists exposed to racist material in the workplace, and calling for campaigning on a law offering freelances the right to bargain collectively were similarly successful. ADM also voted to set up a political fund, despite the branch's opposition.

On the international front, we were pleased to welcome our colleagues from Ukraine, Andrei Shevchenko (chairman of the newly-formed independent journalists' union, who became a father during ADM) and Yevhen Hlibovitsy. Both addressed conference on the struggle for press freedom in their country and on the urgent need for an independent inquiry into the death of their colleague Gyorgy Gongadze, whose case has been taken up vigorously by this branch. Our motion on the issue was passed unanimously here. Our motion deploring the closure of all independent media in Eritrea was also passed.

The war against Iraq loomed large too, and an anti-war motion was overwhelmingly carried, and followed later that day by a two-minute silent demonstration by delegates on the beach across the road from the conference centre. The human cost of war, and the threats it poses to journalists, were brought powerfully home in the tributes to those journalists killed in the conflict. Moving tributes were offered to ITN reporter and NUJ member Terry Lloyd from his former colleagues.

It was a busy old conference, and for all that ADM can be maddening, procedural and hard work, it offers a vital opportunity to meet people from across the union and the profession and gain that "whole union" perspective that the General Secretary's strategic review talks about. It was also heartening to hear freelance issues mentioned fairly regularly in general speeches, and delegates were left both with plenty to ponder and plenty to feel encouraged by.

Going for a gong

Another advantage of attending ADM is the chance to sample the more, er, eccentric habits of Britain's small-town hoteliers. We were certainly richly entertained by the Basil Fawlty-esque antics of our Llandudno host. Very much one of the old school, he insisted on banging a gong to wake everyone up for breakfast, got irritated by guests who didn't sit down for dinner on the stroke of 7.30pm, locked the front door at 11.30pm and generally worked himself into a right old lather at any disturbance to his routine. When guests asked for a front-door key for the hotel so they could let themselves in after curfew time, he responded indignantly, "If I came to stay at your house, would you give me a key?" The man was, in a very real sense, a legend. Roll on Liverpool next year.

Last modified: 26 April 2003 - © 2003 contributors
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