Socialist Worker

Journalists’ union leaders spike resistance at conference

by Phil Turner
Issue No. 2500

Workers on the Newsquest picket line last year—they could have won

Workers on the Newsquest picket line last year—they could have won (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A Victory against Johnston Press bosses in Northern Ireland brought the NUJ journalists’ union conference in Southport to life last weekend.

Big votes for strikes had forced the company to reach a deal. This shows the potential for a fightback.

But the conference was far from the angry mood on the People’s Assembly march the same weekend.

The NUJ leadership increasingly argues against taking political stands because of “professionalism”.

This resulted in delegates bizarrely defeating a motion to defend Jeremy Corbyn’s stand against austerity.

But a breakthrough motion supporting Stand Up to Racism and Unite Against Fascism was successful.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet was re-elected unopposed for another five years.

The union’s weakness stems from the leadership’s failure to lead a fight against the jobs slaughter.

Union activity has decreased under the weight of a top down approach. A national pay conference last year was cancelled because of lack of involvement. Confidence in chapels to fight is low.

A wider left organising solidarity activity and holding the leadership to account is crucial to stop the NUJ drifting to the right. The bi-annual conferences make it harder for rank and file union members to debate the way forward.

The union has been battered in recent years and there was a batten down the hatches, don't rock the boat approach after a financial crisis.

But recent victories at the Financial Times and the Rotherham Advertiser show how journalists can win.

A motion instructing the leadership to support any group of workers breaking Tory union laws reflected a desire for a fightback.

More than 40 delegates attended a Stand Up to Racism fringe meeting featuring extracts of a new film "This is Europe" made by NUJ members Rhetta Moran and Everette Ndlovu. Speakers included Stand Up to Racism activist Nahella Ashraf and Labour councillor Dan T Lewis.

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