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NUJ's Drogheda Independent deal is opposed by 80% of photographers

20 September 2007 - EPUK

An EPUK survey of professional editorial photographers shows a clear grassroots opposition to the Drogheda Independent house agreement and strong dissatisfaction with the National Union of Journalists’s handling of the controversy.

The survey of 358 photographers reveals that 80.3% of all photographers “strongly” or “moderately” oppose the clause in the NUJ-negotiated house agreement with the Drogheda Independent against just 1.4% of photographers who support it.

The level of dissatisfaction is most pronounced among photographers based in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (NI/ROI), where there is 0% support for the clause, against 89% opposition.

The Drogheda Independent house agreement has been strongly opposed by photographers when it was revealed at a late stage in the negotiations that the NUJ had agreed to a clause that would in future allow photographs to be taken by staff reporters at the titles. In a statement, management at the Irish newspaper indicated that they intended that any such photographs would be taken on cameraphones.

Almost 85% of NI/ROI-based photographers opposed the controversial decision by the NUJ’s powerful National Executive emergency committee (eNEC) to ignore the recommendation of the union’s most senior body in Ireland that the house agreement should be rejected in it’s current form.

Key Findings 89%
of NI/ROI photographers oppose the Drogheda Independent house agreement clause which allows photographs to be taken by reporters
of NUJ members say their opinion of the union has been damaged by the controversy.
of former NUJ members say they would not consider rejoining the union
of NUJ members say they are undecided whether to stay in the union

The level of unhappiness with the union was highest among NI/ROI based photographers at 96% saying that their opinion of the NUJ had been damaged by it’s handling of the Drogheda Independent controversy. The level of dissatisfaction among NUJ members was 84%, and 77% when measured across all respondents.

71% of all respondents said they disagreed with the statement “the NUJ is committed to fighting for the best interests of freelance photographers”, with a higher level of disagreement among NUJ members (77%) than non-members (68%).

Comparison with other ‘gatekeepers’

When asked to compare the NUJ’s effectiveness at defending the rights of freelance photographers with that of other press-card issuing bodies, the NUJ was consistently rated below both the Association of Photographer (AoP) and the British Press Photographers’ Association (BPPA).

Overall, just 12% of respondents placed the NUJ as the best organisation for defending photographers rights compared to 26% for the AoP and 20% for the BPPA.

The figure was closer among NUJ photographers, 22% of whom rating their union as the best at defending freelancers’ rights, against 23% for the AOP and the BPPA.

But while only 23% of respondents said they did not know enough about the NUJ to make a judgement, the figure was over 90% for both the BAJ and the CIOJ.

Just under half of all respondents said that they were NUJ members, but only around half of those said they intended to remain a union member for the foreseeable future, with 11% intending to leave, and 40% undecided.

Gains versus losses

80% of all respondents said they felt the negotiated gains for staff reporters under the new house agreement were not worth the possible financial losses that might be faced by freelance photographers working for the title, with this figure rising to 92% among NI/ROI photographers.

And only 9% of all respondents agreed with the statement ““Reporters taking photographs is the inevitable consequence of technological change and the NUJ should support it”

78% of respondents disagreed with the statement “The quality of the Drogheda Independent will be improved by the house agreement”, with 72% saying that the agreement would be used for a template for other house agreements at Irish titles.

One of the more interesting results appeared to show that NI/ROI respondents placed more blame for the controversy on the overall leadership of the NUJ than the NUJ’s Irish Office. While 73% of NI/ROI respondents said they did not have confidence in the NUJ’s Irish Office, 88% said they did not have confidence in the NUJ’s leadership overall.

While the statistics gathered show widespread dissatisfaction with the NUJ, the additional comments supplied by respondents go even further in condemning the NUJ’s actions, with many opinions stating that the the union were biased in favour of reporters, and did not serve the needs of freelances or photographers.

The full results of the survey can be read here.

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