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The NUJ's statement in full

3 August 2007 - EPUK

The full statement made by the Emergency Committee of the National Executive Council today, endorsing the proposed Drogheda Independent house agreement.

This Emergency Committee of the National Executive Council, meeting under rule 8g, rejects unanimously the motion passed at the Irish Executive Council on 27 July 2007 in its entirety.

The Emergency Committee affirms that there is no impediment, either under rule or policy, to the signing of the Drogheda Independent house agreement by chapel officers and the appropriate officials of the NUJ.

The Emergency Committee pays tribute to the work of the chapel and the negotiating team in securing a broad-based agreement with

  • A strong equality content
  • Full recognition of the NUJ and union organisation within the company
  • Requirement on non-members to join the NUJ before contract of employment is issued
  • Protection of pension benefits
  • Enhanced maternity leave
  • Strong flexible working policy
  • New rota including 35 hour week
  • Enhanced rates of pay of up to 6000 euros per annum.

The Committee expresses its full confidence in the leadership of the chapel which conducted lengthy negotiations in an open and consultative manner.

The Committee notes that chapel has put negotiated change at the heart of the bargaining agenda. This Committee equally notes the company’s commitment to agree terms of reference on the signing of the house agreement that will take due cognisance of NUJ policy in respect of technological change.

Recognising that the agreement has implications for reporters and photographers, the Committee warmly welcomes the stated commitment of the company to maintain professional photographers to perform core photographic coverage. The Committee welcomes the commitment to establish a joint working party to monitor the implementation of the clauses relating to photographic technology. In drafting the terms of reference, the chapel and the negotiators should give due regard to

  • Maintaining the primacy of newsgathering as the core function of reporters
  • The development of an agreed training programme which takes account of experience, skills and aptitudes of individual reporters
  • Strict adherence to health and safety standards and the application of best practice
  • The effect on current photographic arrangements within the three titles

Given that the NUJ annual conference earlier this year elected a convergence commission, dealing with integration and convergence of media, this Committee agrees to refer to the commission the further development of an effective strategy encompassing all technological changes.

As part of this ongoing work, the Committee recommends that the General Secretary commission a survey of current practices across the industry. This Committee believes that such work will further improve our ability to put the protection of photographers at the heart of our bargaining strategy. Indeed, quality journalism and photography are a vital part of the union-wide Stand Up for Journalism events planned for November 5 later this year.

Finally, this Committee condemns the abusive attacks and smears on the union and its officials in relation to this issue. The Committee places on record its complete confidence in all officials involved in negotiating the Drogheda Independent agreement.

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Comments

A degree of wishful thinking appears to infect this unpleasantly disingenuous document.

“Recognising that the agreement has implications for reporters and photographers, the Committee warmly welcomes the stated commitment of the company to maintain professional photographers to perform core photographic coverage.”

This is the same company that most NUJ pro’s will not work with because of the atrocious payment rates that are way, way below the NUJ recommended minima. But the chapel, and the union at the highest level, seem delighted to profit from this refusal, c/o higher pay for staff writers and a closed shop for the NUJ in return. Nothing ‘in rule or policy’ to forbid it? Anywhere else it would be called ‘scabbing’ by this union. The moral hypocrisy and rational absurdity is breathtaking.

“* The development of an agreed training programme which takes account of experience, skills and aptitudes of individual reporters”

So the NUJ will assist training of writer-photographers to do the jobs that the company won’t pay NUJ rates for photographers to do. And we photographers pay NUJ subsriptions to support and condone this arrangement?

“* Strict adherence to health and safety standards and the application of best practice”

But not, it seems, NUJ freelance rates.

“Given that the NUJ annual conference earlier this year elected a convergence commission, dealing with integration and convergence of media, this Committee agrees to refer to the commission the further development of an effective strategy encompassing all technological changes.”

This has nothing to do with technology or convergence. I have not seen one photographer anywhere speak out against the idea of multiskilling. We have had a decade of nothing else, with the transition to digital. It is the arrangement of getting one person to do two or more peoples’ jobs badly and cheaply which is not acceptable. It is using writers with cameras to replace freelances who won’t work for deplorable rates that is not acceptable. It is our own union’s crass devaluation of photography that is not acceptable. And buttressing all that with fabricated allegations of personal attacks and slurs, in order to crush debate, is not acceptable.

“As part of this ongoing work, the Committee recommends that the General Secretary commission a survey of current practices across the industry. This Committee believes that such work will further improve our ability to put the protection of photographers at the heart of our bargaining strategy.”

Pure spin. Photographers have been trying to explain for years how our sector is in crisis. The NUJ doesn’t need a survey, it needs its ears syringed. Why do they imagine we have been pleading for a Photographic Organiser for years? Has nobody ever mentioned the widening disparity between payments for writers and photographers? Every dimunition of photography that has happened in the past 20+ years has happened with NUJ acquiescence, with staff chapels seldom showing interest, let alone support. We’re just a bit sceptical now.

“Indeed, quality journalism and photography are a vital part of the union-wide Stand Up for Journalism events planned for November 5 later this year.”

The NUJ’s own publicity for this at http://www.nuj.org.uk/inner.php?docid=1259 doesn’t even mention photography. It does say

‘Earlier, outgoing President Tim Lezard had spoken about the dangers to democracy from a lack of investment in journalism.

He said: “Our ability to do our job is getting harder day by day because with fewer journalists working on the same number of stories, we can’t put the same time and effort into each story so, inevitably, the quality suffers.

“It’s our readers, viewers and listeners who suffer most from this because without reporters in court, or in council chambers, on the streets asking questions, how will they know what is going on in their own communities?”

How exactly does this principled and and correct summary reconcile with overworked writers now also taking photographs as well?

“Finally, this Committee condemns the abusive attacks and smears on the union and its officials in relation to this issue. The Committee places on record its complete confidence in all officials involved in negotiating the Drogheda Independent agreement.”

This is a serious and spurious charge that has been used to intimidate the nujphoto list into shutting down and shutting up c/o a direct threat from Jeremy Dear.

Seamus Dooley had no interest in consulting photographers via the list until after the details of the Drogheda agreement were revealed as a fait accompli. That certainly caused a debate about the possible implications for photography, and anger at what many of us see as a sell-out and betrayal, but there has been no abuse on that list, nor anywhere else as far as I am aware.

I challenge the NUJ to substantiate these charges and take disciplinary action where these alleged misdemeanours have occurred, because until that happens this accusation is just what it looks like : a shabby, baseless innuendo aimed at painting all opposition as undemocratic and unreasonable. Meanwhile, many photographers will condemn the attacks and slurs of the NUJ leadership, who owe us an apology and an explanation for undermining the principle of collective solidarity and opposition to exploitation that is the sine qua non of a trade union. I suspect we will have a long wait.

Comment 1: Tony Sleep, 3 August 2007, 08:00 PM

I would be very interested to hear the story of the chapels freelance official/representative and of the discussions that he/she had with local freelances. All chapels have freelance reps – I believe this is part of Union rules

Comment 2: Pete Jenkins, 3 August 2007, 10:00 PM

Has nobody ever mentioned the widening disparity between payments for writers and photographers?

I need to clarify this. The issue is declining PROFITABILITY.

Photographers have been exposed to relentless investment in new technology with the advent of digital. The short amortisation periods on digital cameras and supporting IT hardware and software, plus the extra time required for post production, has eaten most of the profit.

Rates have not increased to reflect these additional overheads. Rather they have stayed static or even fallen, with cost savings accruing to clients who no longer need pay for scanning or repro services.

This is largely an outcome of an oversupplied market, with too many photographers chasing too little profitable work.

At the same time, clients have used market pressure to try and force freelances to surrender copyright, depriving us of resale opportunities – the only thing that made low fees tenable in the first place.

The NUJ here adds to the market pressure. And these being staff writers, the company gets full copyright.

There is no question that both will further empower the company to twist the arms and legs off professional photographers.

I await the NUJ explanation of how this assists the NUJ photographers whose interests it purports to represent.

Comment 3: Tony Sleep, 5 August 2007, 10:09 AM

I think that the situation is not worth further “talk”. The Professional freelance photographers that are members of the NUJ all need to take
stock of the situation. I for one have been asking questions of other organizations ie The BAJ and the SJA in an attempt to find
one that is prepared to stand up for our needs and not shaft us and take our money. The way the industry is going all photographers might find that they end up freelancers whether they like it or not.

Regards

Dave Smith
Insport

Comment 4: david Smith, 5 August 2007, 03:03 PM

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