Online only, so far

Union democracy at work

MOTIONS to go before Delegate Meeting - DM, the NUJ's conference held every two years - are on the agenda on the LFB meeting on Monday 10 February. (We will also have a guest speaker on running a successful hyper-local blog: see here.) There is likely also to be a spot devoted to motions for DM at the March LFB meeting too.

A vote at NUJ's Delegate Meeting; Photo: Matt Salusbury

A vote at an NUJ Delegate Meeting way back in 2011, viewed from the LFB delegate's table

Our latest guide to "DM" for our members is here. London Freelance Branch has put forward several motions to be voted on at the meeting, which is held this year in Southport on 24-26 April.

As by far the biggest Branch, LFB has nine delegates and is still seeking reserves to be ready to fill in short notice. The nature of freelance work means this can easily happen! If you're considering standing as a reserve delegate, contact Branch Treasurer Jenny Vaughan, who is the Branch's "DM Lead" on coordinating LFB's delegation. (Yes, accommodation, food, travel and a modest "loss of earnings" allowance for working freelances is provided.)

LFB's delegates are just that - LFB members vote at Branch meetings to instruct its delegation how they should vote on particular motions at DM. There's a preliminary agenda here. Yes, you'll need to be an NUJ member with your membership number ready to log in to see it, the members-only log in page that it takes you to will explain what to do if you're stuck.

At the February Branch meeting there will be around 30 print copies of the preliminary agenda to look at, hopefully enough copies for members present if some of us share.

There will be some changes to the preliminary agenda before the DM, mostly in terms of putting motions "in order" so that they fit the Union's Standing Orders - the rules under which DM operates. Motions have to clearly instruct the Union's National Executive Council - NEC, the body tasked with day-to-day decision-making - to do something. If they are adopted they become Union policy that the NEC has a duty to carry out.

While this may sound a little bureaucratic, the NUJ is actually one of the more democratic unions in terms of members being able to vote on Union policy. But the vital task of ensuring Union democracy often gets relegated to "any other business" or falls off busy Branch meeting agendas altogether, which is why the LFB Committee has taken the trouble to ensure that there's time devoted to preparing for DM in the February meeting.

LFB's motions that have made it onto the preliminary agenda include Motion 38 on the NUJ's independent charity NUJ Extra's relationship with Amazon's charitable arm, Amazon Smile. Also from LFB is Motion 126 on criteria for full NUJ membership, currently dependent on earning half your income from journalism.

Then there's Motion 96 on support for our colleagues in Afghanistan and their union - see here. Motion 102 is on marking the anniversary of the nuclear catastrophes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. LFB's delegates recently had a meeting at which it came up with suggestions for how they should vote on particular motions at DM - these will be put to members to vote on at the February Branch meeting (and possibly at the March meeting as well if we run out of time).

Some of the more controversial issues likely to dominate this DM are in the Finances section - a proposal to raise Union subscriptions to avert a financial disaster to the Union. The most recent DM in 2018 voted against a proposed subscriptions increase.

The section of the agenda on Membership - of which Motion 126 is a part - is also likely to spark controversy, at a time when an increasing proportion of Union members are freelance and struggling to make a living from journalism alone. Both the issue of subscriptions and of membership criteria are going to require some very big decisions from the Union's members. Jenny Vaughan, Branch Treasurer and LFB's DM Lead for DM 2020 and a veteran of many DMs, will be there are the February Branch meeting to fill us in on the background to the more important issues at DM and how we got there.

The Branch delegation will seek instruction - via votes from those members present at Branch meetings - on how they should vote on particular motions at DM. As the DM agenda we have in front of us is only a preliminary agenda, at least some of this will have to come back to the March Branch meeting to be voted on by members. This instruction could include advice to listen to the debate and form a conclusion and vote based on that, or an instruction that there's a "free vote" on any issues that members don't feel particularly strongly about.