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NUJ Conference: Defending pay and conditions
JOURNALISTS NEED well-resourced newsrooms, photographers and media crews, that enable them to work safely, with good pay and conditions.
Molly Cooper, National Union of Journalists (NUJ), national executive committee (NEC), personal capacity
However, as the NUJ holds its Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) this week, these fundamentals are under attack from media companies desperate to defend their profit margins and their political interests.
The International Federation of Journalists report that 150 journalists were killed in 2005. 35 of these were killed in Iraq, bringing the death toll since the war began to over 100. Many journalists who have died are Iraqi, further undermining the independent scrutiny of the actions of the coalition forces.
Media bosses across the industry are carrying out a sustained campaign of job cuts in national and regional papers.
Media bosses blame falls in advertising revenue and disappointing profit forecasts, yet companies like the Guardian Media Group last year made record profits of £32.6 million.
Socialist Party members have drafted an emergency motion which should be put to ADM by the NEC, which condemns the job cuts and calls for a national meeting of M/FOCs (shop stewards and reps) to discuss a campaign to fight the cuts. It calls for protests outside the offices of media companies making the cuts - Northcliffe, Trinity Mirror and the Guardian Media Group - and calls for a campaign of co-ordinated industrial action, if necessary.
Media bosses are attempting to run newspapers by cutting staff jobs and relying heavily on freelances, with outsourcing to agencies like the Press Association. Alongside this supposedly efficient model of media production goes a culture of bullying, long hours as well as frequent breaches of health and safety and trade union rights.
It is essential that freelances and staff journalists are integrated into chapels, with freelance reps on chapel committees, with united support from freelances and staff for industrial action. Support for motion 24 is important, as it calls for support from chapels for freelances considering taking industrial action.
Low pay is endemic across the industry, with many journalists receiving pay offers of 2-3%. Many freelance have not seen increases in rates for at least ten years. A motion, written by Socialist Party members, is calling for the NUJ to adopt a demand of a minimum wage of £26,000.
We may be able to get small concessions in one set of negotiations but the bosses will come back time and time again to attack working people.
Our need for housing, health services and decent pay is secondary to the need for the rich to preserve their profits.
This is why Socialist Party members are campaigning for a new mass workers' party, to stand up to the big business parties in Britain and fight for system which looks after the interests of ordinary people.
In The Socialist 23 March 2006: