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Campaigning for a £26,000 minimum wage
"THERE SEEMS to be a bit of a right-wing wind blowing this year," was how some delegates commented on this year's centenary conference (ADM) of the National Union of Journalists. The make-up of the conference was certainly older, more conservative and inward-looking than in previous years.
Christian Bunke Manchester
Throughout, the union's leadership struck a cautious tone, commenting on the loss in membership in the last year due to job cuts. "This is a period of consolidation" was the mantra. This and: "We have to be cautious about how we save our money" were in some ways the main themes of the conference.
There will be a national day of action on pay and conditions throughout the industry on 5 November, which is likely to include strike action in a number of places. One of the bosses' organisations will meet in Manchester that day. They can expect an angry welcome from journalists, who wonder why they are getting paid pitiful wages when the bosses continue to rake in millions in profits.
Some will also want to ask questions about which black hole their pension funds have disappeared into. Many others will want to know why jobs in the industry are being cut, when many journalists have to work punishingly long hours. According to the national executive (NEC), the demand for a £26,000 minimum wage for journalists will play a big part in the day of action.
The day of action should be part of a fighting, year-long campaign across the industry. The union should make it clear to members that militant action can win.
This much is proven by the union's history - especially by the national newspapers' strike in 1978-79, which won a 14.5% pay increase. The strike was so successful, partly because of powerful organisation in the workplace. The union should be proud of these traditions and should encourage them now.
Some activists are mooting the idea of rebuilding the broad left within the union. But the weaknesses of the old "broad" left need to be analysed. A left-wing organisation within a union cannot just be an electoral machine. It has to be centred around a fighting industrial programme and sink roots in the workplaces. Officials elected on its platform need to be held accountable by the left organisation.
There were some good decisions made at ADM. The union is backing the demand for a national demonstration against NHS cuts, which was put to ADM by members of the Socialist Party.
A real breakthrough was made by members of the Manchester branch. The branch has campaigned for the last few years to achieve full membership rights for asylum seekers who have been working journalists in their home countries. This was won at this year's ADM by a huge majority, against the will of the NEC.
In The Socialist 19 April 2007:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party editorial
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis