The NUJ 2021 conference saw some hotly debated motions and immense passion on display, of that there can be no doubt.
The main debate on day one was always going to be the subs rise, which after the NEC made a very strong case, was passed comprehensively. However, the two-year agreement is only a temporary solution to the union’s financial problems. The key now is not to be in the same position within a couple of years, and recruiting new members in PR and Communications will play a huge role in that endeavour.
Indeed, one such motion came from the younger generation where it was put forward that the union abandoned the need for membership applications to be proposed and seconded, and despite arguments from NEC members, this motion passed convincingly removing a barrier to people joining the union.
The delegates also differed from the NEC when it was proposed that financial decisions, such as sub rises, could be accepted on a simple majority basis, rather than the current 2/3s required, which was roundly rejected.
The pleasing part of the weekend was the tradition of the union’s name being protected. The brand of the National Union of Journalists holds sway, and despite a motion claiming that a name change would “attract a wider membership”, there was a lack of appetite to see it through.
Day two was dominated by two issues. The first was the future of the media industry, particularly around digital and print.
The Union’s own magazine and how it should be distributed made for an interesting discussion.
This will always bring a debate, where members who favour more traditional print forms of journalism compared with the new generation who are more likely to read things on devices. It is fair to say a middle ground was found with both options being made available.
The later part of the day then moved to international issues including the subject of war between Israel and the Palestinians dominating proceedings. The consensus was we must do what we can to support our fellow journalists in hotspots and warzones around the world and that the bombing of the AP building by the IDF was unacceptable.
With the voting system holding up well across the two days and our very own outgoing President and branch member Sian Jones conducting proceedings fairly and professionally from the chair, maybe we have seen a glimpse into the future of delegate meetings as well as the future of the union.
- Ben Coates is Vice Chair of the branch. He writes this as a first time delegate to DM and in a personal capacity.