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NUJ puts back 'photographers organiser' vote for another year

14 April 2007 - EPUK

The centenary Annual Delegates Meeting of the National Union of Journalists have voted to defer the decision as to whether to appoint a full time Photographers Organiser for at least another year.

The decision, which judging from discussions on the EPUK and NUJPhoto email lists has strong grassroots backing from photographer members, cannot now be voted on until next year’s ADM.

However, an earlier motion brought by General Secretary Jeremy Dear proposing an internal staff review and which was passed by ADM, could well bring about the same end result.

The conference heard Nottingham photographer and Photographers Sub-Committee vice-chair Pete Jenkins argue that the creation of a Photographers Organiser would better address the issues faced by photographers from within the union.

Disgruntled photographers at the vote Photograph: John Harris/reportdigital.co.uk

While the motion was opposed by a speaker representing the NUJ’s National Executive Committee, delegates spoken to by EPUK believed that the vote would be carried.

But before a vote could be taken on the Photographers’ Organiser motion, delegate Thom Dibdin from Edinburgh Freelance Branch proposed that the motion be remitted. The decision means that a vote on the motion itself could not be taken.

The concept of a full time union official with a specific remit to look after photographers’ issues has been gathering support over recent years, but the 2005 Annual Delegates Meeting saw a similar vote defeated.

At the moment, issues involving photographers are handled by any one of five full time organisers, depending upon industry sector, whether the member is freelance or staff, or by geographical region.

The majority of issues affecting photographers are currently handled by Freelance Organiser John Toner, reflecting the employment status of the majority of the Union’s photographer members.

The NUJ has around 2,500 photographer members, and the current figure is increasing by around 8%, making it the only sectors of the union where membership is rising.

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The NUJ is becoming increasingly irrelevant to media workers and particularly photographers. If they’re not handing our subs over to obscure minority interest groups on the other side of the planet they’re arguing over meaningless minutiae that will never serve any practical use. As soon as the BPPA gets ‘gatekeeper’ status for its ID card. I’m jumping ship.

Comment 1: fox foxton, 14 April 2007, 05:11 pm

Actually, I think the opposite. The NUJ is becoming MORE relevant to media workers, especially photographers. Without organisations such as the NUJ, which does campaign tirelessly on our behalf, things would be even worse. As for the ‘Press Card’ you can get that elsewhere already – it is not the reason to belong to the NUJ – just one of them.

Comment 2: Pete Jenkins, 15 April 2007, 08:01 am

Know exactly wot u mean foxy and totaly in agreement with u mate!
The Union’s ADM seems to be obessed with passing motions defending the democratic rights of sum sort of weirdo sect (I fink they’s called journalists) in far flung places like Colombia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Palestine or Zimbabwe even Russia I hear

Anyways I too long for the day when the union concentrates on the primary function of being a decent Grocers Association and stops all this political malarkeying with things like bluddy media freedoms n’ campaigns ‘bout the killings and jailings of these journo weirdos

Comment 3: Stalingrad O'Neill, 15 April 2007, 05:49 pm

Fair point chaps – but you have to admit that the NUJ has absolutely failed to halt the severe decline in pay and conditions for UK media workers – The Unions complete inability to represent its members interests to the Gowers Review being a case in point. I heard the NUJ’s submission to the inquiry and it quickly became apparent that they had little understanding of the issues involved.
The structure and activity of the NUJ are wholly inadequate
for people working in media in the 21st Century which is partly why it is experiencing large falls in membership.

Comment 4: fox foxton, 15 April 2007, 06:30 pm

Mmm, not so sure that you are correct, about the Gowers submission. Yes, it could have been better – all things could, but the NUJ highlight many of the important issues we have to deal with, as did the AoP and also Redeye. Is it the unions’ fault that Gowers seems not to have read many of the excellently written submissions presented? Just out of interest what did you cover in your own submission that you think the NUJ omitted?

The NUJ is not leaving it there, it has its parliamentary Group who are being instructed as we speak on how to better represent photographers specifically, and the NUJ and individual photographers are also still on the consultation list, so all is not lost yet.

You are right that the union does need dragging into the 21st Century – it isn’t just a bunch of trots out for political do-gooding. The NUJ works seriously hard for photographers, and indeed it is the one area of the union that continually expands in membership year on year. The union is its members and there a lot of intelligent hard working members who contribute to the unions efforts to improve our industry and halt the decline.

I have always been prepared to knock the union for its many faults, but over the past three years specifically its photographer profile, and its activities on behalf of photographers, just gets better. Yes, it needs to improve even more. Yes, it is frustrating, but at the moment it is the most active and powerful lobby that we have, aided by the fact that it lobbies with other organisations, creating a stronger front for all photographers.

The more photographers who stay with the union, and the more who join, the better it will be at fighting on our behalf.

Kind regards

Pete Jenkins

Comment 5: Pete Jenkins, 18 April 2007, 02:19 pm

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