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Photographers discussion list closed after intervention from NUJ officials

1 August 2007 - EPUK

A private photographers’ email discussion list has in the last few hours announced itself as having closed after it came under pressure from the NUJ hierarchy to accept a membership application from a high ranking union official.

6.30pm Update: The NUJPhoto discussion list closed this afternoon, just hours after EPUK broke the story of union attempts to overturn a moderator decision.

It was initially reported that the closure came after pressure from the NUJ’s Freelance Industrial Council, although it is now understood that the decision was taken by the list owner.

NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley, who is currently embroiled in controversy over the proposed Drogheda Independent house agreement, applied several weeks ago to join the private email discussion list, open to photographers who are members of the journalism union.

His application was subsequently turned down. On its web page, NUJPhoto had stated that membership is “open to members of the National Union of Journalists who are photographers, that is members of the union who regularly supply stills images, (digital or film based) to their clients.”

This evening Seamus Dooley told EPUK: “ The Irish Executive Council had adjourned discussion on the Drogheda Independent Agreement to allow consultation and I believed that the network was an obvious vehicle for an exchange of views. The opportunity to clarify misinformation would also have been useful.”

“There was nothing unusual or sinister about the application”, he said, adding that at least one other non-photographer NUJ official had joined the list before.


Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists

Last week, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear criticised the decision and ordered the union’s Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) – which contributes a small amount of funding towards the running costs of NUJPhoto – to reverse the decision and admit Dooley.

NUJPhoto history

NUJPhoto was set up in April 2005 by NUJ member and Nottingham-based photographer Pete Jenkins as an independent discussion list for union photographers to discuss union issues. In May 2005, the NUJ’s Freelance Industrial Council voted to formally endorse the discussion list and its aims, which is not hosted on the NUJ’s servers, and does not use any other NUJ internet resources.

How we’ve covered the story: Fury as NUJ ‘sells out’ Drogheda photographers for ‘closed shop’ agreement Read here
Sqweegee: “The NUJ’s justification for this particular piece of treachery is as slimy as can be. They describe it as a ‘quid pro quo for major benefits’. The question is: what are the benefits and to whom do they accrue?” Read it here
Irish Executive Committee asks NEC to reject Drogheda Independent agreement Read here

The matter was originally tabled for discussion at Thursday’s Emergency Meeting of the National Executive Council, the second most powerful decision making body in the union, which can instruct full time union officials.

The shutting down of the email list will likely be seen a blow to photographers on the discussion list, which is believed to have a membership somewhere between two hundred and three hundred.

Thursday’s Emergency NEC meeting is also set to discuss the controversial Drogheda Independent house agreement, in which the NUJ’s Irish office has proposed that photographs for the newspaper can in future be taken by reporters. The newspaper management has indicated that any such photographs would have to be taken on the reporters’ cameraphones.

NUJ member and Drogheda Independent contract photographer Sinead Sarsfield last week told EPUK that 90% of her income currently comes from the titles, and that if the house agreement goes through, it is likely to force her out of the industry completely. She accuses the Irish office of the NUJ of formulating the agreement in secret without letting her know what was happening, and said that the union had refused to help her when she was negotiating her own contract with the Drogheda Independent.

Whether the Drogheda Independent house agreement is passed is likely to be interpreted as wider policy on how the 35,000 strong Union views its 2,300 photographer members. There is already widespread grassroots dissatisfaction with the union, and particularly in the standard of the legal advice provided to members.

Several NUJ members have already told EPUK that they intend to leave the NUJ in favour of the British Press Photographers Association which will shortly have ‘gatekeeper’ status and will be able to issue official press cards to its members.

If the House Agreement is passed on Thursday, it will prove controversial in that it would be highly unusual for one union Executive Committee to overrule the recommendations of another. The Irish Executive Committee has asked the NEC to reject the house agreement in its current form.

Much appears to hinge on whether the matter is decided on Thursday by the smaller, five-member Emergency NEC committee or whether it is deferred for a meeting of the full 27-strong NEC committee next month. EPUK understands that Seamus Dooley is determined that the matter needs to be handled quickly, and so should be dealt with this week by the smaller committee, which contains no members who are photographers.

The moderators and owner of the NUJPhoto discussion list told EPUK that they would be making no comment on the situation at this time.

Want to contact the EPUK Website editor? editor@epuk.org

Comments

Another great example of the NUJ’s ability to piss off its own members. I only recently rejoined the union after being assured that it had rid itself of its old in-fighting ways. Apparently not. I’m one of those who will be looking for a different organisation to represent my interests because the NUJ is evidently not equipped to do so.

Comment 1: Steve Mansfield-Devine, 1 August 2007, 05:28 PM

For the sake of clarity, could you please credi this article with the author
Thanks

Comment 2: Mark Pinder, 2 August 2007, 10:21 AM

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your post. Website content at epuk.org is produced by a core team or around seven writers and two section editors, plus guest writers and other contributors who help with writing and subbing – in total I’m guessing that we must have about seventy or eighty contributors over the course of a year.

It’s been the policy since EPUK was set-up that news pieces are just credited to “EPUK” and comment writers and specialist writers keep their byline. It’s much the same policy as the NUJ uses on their website.

I’ll add the above text to our About page in due course. And of course, if you’d like to become a contributor, just email me using the address on this page.

Nick McGowan-Lowe, EPUK Website Editor

Comment 3: The EPUK Website Editor, 2 August 2007, 01:35 PM

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