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Sweatheart management deal seen off

LONDON FREELANCE Branch passed a motion in support of media workers at Chiswick-based Persian language broadcaster Iran International, who faced the threat of a "sweetheart" recognition deal between the British Association of Journalists (BAJ) and Iran International management.

BAJ is an obscure breakaway from the NUJ. It has no members at the broadcaster and is not affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC). A recent House of Lords Early Day Motion (see below) describes the BAJ as "tiny".

The offer of a recognition deal came from management. The BAJ "union rep" named in the deal was not even a BAJ member and turned out to be a senior manager, according to an article on the NUJ website.

The deal was initially suspended to give Iran International staff 30 days to join BAJ, in the expectation that existing NUJ members working with the broadcaster would be among those joining. NUJ members strongly resisted any such attempt at BAJ recognition. The deal, with reported pressure to join BAJ, created what the NUJ described as a "climate of fear," as most workers were dependent on their jobs for their UK visas and felt under pressure to join.

The NUJ has consistently supported members at Iran International who face harassment and threats to themselves and their families back in Iran from the Iranian regime.

The London Freelance Branch motion, passed in its July online Branch meeting, promised that it will provide "solidarity and financial support and will respond to other requests "from Iran International workers.

In the event, LFB's offer wasn't needed. Following a concerted campaign against the agreement by the NUJ, the BAJ deal was withdrawn. The NUJ will now resubmit its request to the Central Arbitration Committee for union recognition at Iran International.

Union recognition at a media outlet has benefits for staff, such as collective bargaining on behalf of all staff. Sadly there is no collective bargaining for freelances at the moment in the UK. The company has to provide space and resources for the NUJ's workplace rep ("Mother of Chapel" or "Father of Chapel") and is required to allow the NUJ's officers to come onto the premises.

Following the collapse of the BAJ deal, Labour peer and employment law expert Lord Hendy put forward Early Day Motion 723, which described the BAJ sweetheart deal at Iran International as "wholly unethical and unprincipled" and pledged to support NUJ members at the broadcaster. Lord Hendy plans to lodge a complaint with the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) on behalf of the NUJ over the BAJ deal.