Hands off FOI - the fight to defend the Freedom of Information Act
Branch meeting, Monday 15 Feb, 6.30pm Fifth Floor, Headland House, 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road, WC1X 8DP (Nearest tube: King’s Cross. Sandwiches and light refreshments provided, baby sitting and reasonable travel costs can be covered.)
Speakers – Katherine Gundersen from the Campaign for Freedom of Information and William Turvill, Journalist at Press Gazette
From Duckhousegate to the Prince Charles spider pen memos, the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act introduced a decade ago has helped to uncover some of the biggest scandals of recent years, news stories that have rocked the establishment and led to major shifts in public opinion.
But since last year journalists and campaigners have been fighting to protect the Act, after a Government Commission threatened to introduce sweeping reforms that could limit our access to information drastically – such as giving MPs the right to veto disclosures and slapping prohibitive fees on FOI requests, moves that could hit investigative journalism in our sector particularly hard.
With the Commission due to report its recommendations any time now, Katherine Gundersen from the Campaign for Freedom of Information and William Turvill, journalist at Press Gazette, will bring us up to date on progress with the campaign to defend FOI and why journalists are fighting not only to preserve the Act but to extend it even further.
Branch AGMThe branch will hold the next Annual General Meeting at the April branch meeting. This is at 6.30pm 18 April 2016, in the Bertrand Russell Room at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL.
The meeting will receive reports from the branch committee on activities, membership and finance, and will elect branch officials for the coming year.
Branch meeting 16th November 2015: Motions For DM
These are the motions that we will be discussing at the next Branch meeting on 16th November. It will be our last opportunity to debate these important issues before they are submitted the the union for adition to the motions for Delegates Meeting to be held in April 2016.
(Proposers and secounders names have been removed from this online version)
his DM notes:
1) The mass of scientific evidence that proves human activity, and particularly the burning of fossil fuels, is responsible for climate change.
2) Campaigns around the world aimed at encouraging corporations, pension funds and organisations to disinvest from fossil fuel companies.
3) The One Million Climate Change Jobs campaign that was set up by trade unionists and campaigners to set out the work that needs to be done in the transition to a low carbon economy fit for the future. This campaign is now backed by eight national trade unions and the TUC.
4) Moves by the government to reinvigorate the UK nuclear power industry.
5) Moves by the government to encourage the expansion of fracking.
6) That there will be demonstrations and events ahead that will be held in order to press the government to increase significantly incentives favouring major investment in renewable energy.
This DM believes:
1) That trade unionists have a responsibility to be among those organisations leading the campaign for action to combat climate change and to ensure the bulk of fossil fuels remain in the ground.
2) That tackling climate change, especially through the creation of climate jobs, is of enormous relevance for trade unions.
3) That there is an urgent need to replace power stations burning fossil fuels with renewable energy, such as solar panels, wind farms and tidal dams.
4) That fracking should be opposed.
5) That the nuclear option consumes huge amounts of fossil fuels in construction and subsidiary operations, and amounts to a dangerous blind alley.
This DM instructs the NEC to:
1) Write to the Campaign Against Climate Change (CaCCTU) giving the union’s backing and encourage branches to send delegates to its trade union group.
2) To purchase and send a copy of the newly updated One Million Climate Jobs report to the branch secretaries of every NUJ branch and organise branch meetings with speakers from the campaign.
3) To encourage the membership to attend and join events and demonstrations calling for an end to fracking, the burning of fossil fuels and for investment in renewable energy.
4) To encourage members to attend and join events and demonstrations calling for the phasing out of nuclear power.
This DM notes:
1) We are witnessing the biggest movement of people since the Second World War.
2) By October last year, more than 2,500 people had drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, while thousands more languished in camps in the most appalling conditions.
3. The government’s response has been completely inadequate and has sought to demonise people who are fleeing war, poverty, and persecution.
4. Stand Up To Racism is abroad-based campaign that seeks to challenge racism, Islamophobia and the scapegoating of migrants and refugees.
This DM believes:
1) The 80,000 who attended the SUTR jointly organised ‘Refugees Welcome’ march in London demonstrates there is widespread support for allowing more refugees into the UK.
2) The government’s austerity measures pose a far greater threat to the public’s standard of living than migrants and refugees.
3) The NUJ has an important role to play in the media coverage of such issues and should campaign to make “refugees welcome here” a reality.
4. That although the threat from fascist groups such as the EDL, the BNP and Britain First has declined, the NUJ and other unions need to maintain support for anti-fascist and anti-racist organisations, including the TUC-backed Unite Against Fascism which has mobilised against fascist marches 18 times in Rotherham alone in the past two years.
This DM instructs NEC to:
1) Support and campaign for Stand Up to Racism and to mobilise union members on demonstrations it calls nationally and locally.
2) Reiterate support for Unite Against Fascism and other anti-racist, anti-fascist organisations.
3) Urge members to respect the dignity of refugees when reporting on the crisis. This includes the choice of words (using the terms “asylum seeker” or “illegal migrant” should be condemned as derogatory) as well as general reporting standards such as the refugees right to anonymity, right to privacy and consent when taking pictures.
This DM notes:
1) That Israeli settlements in the West bank are illegal under international law and on this basis the UK could, under EU and World Trade Organisation law, unilaterally ban the trade that sustains them.
2) That since 2009, government departments have encouraged retailers to make sure they accurately label goods from the settlements. This has resulted in consumer pressure persuading most supermarkets to take settlement goods off their shelves.
3) That 170 organisations, including 14 trade unions, in Palestine, back the call for a boycott of goods from the settlements.
4) The TUC’s decision, first made in 2010 and reiterated since, “to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the Wall”.
5) The TUC’s decision at its 2014 Congress, and following Israel’s devastating invasion of Gaza, to ‘step up its campaign for a free Palestine’.
6) The continuing arms trade by UK and EU-based companies, and collaboration with Israel’s military-industrial complex.
This DM resolves to instruct the NEC to:
1) Support the TUC’s call for a boycott of “the goods of companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the Wall”.
2) Call on the UK government to end to all UK arms trading with Israel.
3) Work with the TUC in its efforts to campaign for a free Palestine.
Anti-austerity/Tory anti-union bill
This DM notes:
1) Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory is a welcome departure from the pro austerity or “austeritylite” policies of previous establishment politicians.
2) Corbyn has a democratic mandate to carry out the policies that he campaigned on.
3) Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies are ones that reflect the desires of millions of working people.
4) Attempts by the establishment and politicians both inside and outside of Labour to undermine Corbyn’s mandate are simply attempts to defend the policies of austerity, marketisation and war.
5) The magnificent victory by PCS members after 110 days of strike action at the National Gallery in London as an example of how solidarity means we can fight and win.
6) The government’s anti-union legislation imposing strict limits on balloting procedures, notices of industrial action and picketing operations.
This DM instructs the NEC to:
1) To congratulate the General Secretary in supporting the statement backing Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity policies and his democratic mandate to lead Labour, and to endorse the statement on behalf of the national union.
2) To support and campaign for coordinated strike action across the NUJ and the trade union movement to defy and defeat the government's anti-union bill
3) To pledge support for NUJ members or any group of workers fighting austerity or attacks on pay or terms and conditions and to campaign for the maximum solidarity to be shown by union members.
This DM notes:
1) The forthcoming referendum to be held on whether the UK should continue to be a member of the European Union.
2) The use of the undemocratic institutions of the EU and Eurozone to force Greece to accept a third round of austerity, further deepening a depression in that country that is worse than the one experienced in the 1930s.
3) The EU is one of the richest regions in the world but many of its member states refuse to honour their obligations under international law with regards to refugees.
4) The wars fought by European powers and their proxies in the Middle East and Africa have created the refugee crisis.
5) Immigration laws merely serve to regulate flows and impose discriminatory laws on the people moving for reasons of poverty or war.
This DM believes:
1) Jacques Delors introduced the Social Chapter when he was president of the European Commission as part of the same neoliberal agenda that he had forced on the Mitterrand government in France, leading it to abandon its socialist economic policies in 1983.
2) The Single Market (which the Thatcher government played a pivotal role in bringing about), despite Delors’s promises of a ‘Social Europe’ in fact represents ‘a machine for the liberalisation of European capitalism’.
3) European Monetary Union was the necessary corollary of the single market, further hard-wiring neoliberalism into the European project.
4) British trade unions and the left in particular wrongly came to see the EU as a form of protection against Thatcherism. This was a reaction to the defeats suffered by the trade union movement in the 1980s.
5) European integration – from the EEC to the EU – has failed to overcome national antagonisms; in fact it has sharpened them. The EU does not represent a transcendence of the nation state but is instead a mechanism for advancing the interests of Europe’s largest capitalist countries.
6) The EU is a dysfunctional would-be imperialist power that took the collapse of the eastern bloc as an opportunity for empire building, creating the tensions seen in Ukraine today.
7) Another Europe is possible – built on social solidarity. However, it requires first the breaking up the EU.
8) The union should take up Guardian columnist Owen Jones’s call for ‘Lexit’ – ‘left support for withdrawal’.
9) A left-wing campaign against the EU should be conducted from a perspective of supporting the free movement of labour and opening European borders to refugees and migrants.
This DM resolves to instruct the NEC to:
1) Campaign for the UK to withdraw from the EU in the forthcoming referendum.
2) To ensure that, when campaigning against the EU, no union representative or body shall in any circumstances share a platform with Tories, UKIP or business organisations.
Nominations for DM-elected bodies
(closing date: 1pm Monday 23 November)
The branch can put forward nominees for the following DM-elected bodies
- Standing Orders Committee (five to be elected)
- TUC Delegation (three members to be elected in all)
- Women’s TUC Delegaton (five to be elected)
- NUJ Extra (five to be elected)
- Professional Training Committee (six to be elected)
- 60+ Committee/Pensioners’ Parliament (six to be elected)
- Journalist Editorial Advisory Board (seven to be elected)
- Health and Safety Committee (seven to be elected)
- International Federation of Journalists Triennial Congress (four to be elected)
- Equality Council (seven to be elected)
- Disabled Members’ Council (seven to be elected)
- Appeals Tribunal (nine to be elected)
July Branch Meeting 2015
Branch meeting, Monday 20 July, 6.30pmFifth Floor, Headland House, 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road, WC1X 8DP (nearest tube, King’s Cross, Sandwiches and light refreshments provided. Baby sitting and reasonable travel costs covered)
Discussions and decisions
The Branch will be holding its regular Branch meeting this month on Monday 20 July at Headland house. We will use the time to arrange the coming years activity and would like it if as many members as possible could attend and offer their assistance and views on how to get more people involved in the Branch's activities, and help to set the agenda for the next period.
There are no motions tabled for the meeting.
We would also like to invite members to the Pub after the meeting to carry on the discussions over a tipple of their choosing, on us!
May 2015 Branch Meeting
Branch meeting, Monday 18 May, 6.30pm
Fifth Floor, Headland House, 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road, WC1X 8DP
(nearest tube, King’s Cross, Sandwiches and light refreshments provided. Baby sitting and reasonable travel costs covered)
It’s boring and it’s bureaucratic, but every organisation like ours needs rules to make it clear how and when meetings can be called and how they should be run – they’re called Standing Orders. Our current set (http://bit.ly/1GTCSp4) don’t cover everything they should, so the committee has prepared a completely new set that follows established branch practice and incorporates the requirements of the NUJ Rulebook. We’ll be voting on them at the meeting. You can see the full proposed Standing Orders at (http://bit.ly/1bDpJIe). You can follow both these links without having to log in.
Working hours survey
London Magazine Branch is planning to survey members to find out just how much work we are actually doing. There’s a feeling that working hours are increasing, breaks are shrinking, and that work is extending into the home even for staff members. The survey will aim to put some numbers onto the feeling.
The survey will cover core working hours, working during lunch and in the evening, and on the way to and from the workplace, and at home. The draft survey will be available for members to see at the branch meeting, and will be finalised shortly after, taking comments on board.
In March the Guardian carried a fascinating and moving feature about the work of a collective of Indian women journalists producing a weekly for distribution among marginalised communities in Uttar Pradesh (you can read the article at http://bit.ly/1KqwXLc), in extraordinarily difficult conditions. They cover stories no one else wants to touch, including, as the Guardian pointed out in its headline, kidnap, rape and so-called “honour” killings. The branch committee is supporting a proposal to set up a fund – and seek donations from chapels and other union branches – to help the journalists, including buying a scooter so that the journalist mentioned in the article can travel safely from village to village. Most of Khabar Lahariya’s output is in local languages, but there is enough English content on their website, (http://bit.ly/1zRr9uk), to give a flavour of what they do.
This branch agrees to conduct an online survey of working hours. The survey should cover both paid contractual work and unpaid overtime, and include work done at home and on the way to and from the workplace.
Proposed: Pete WrobelSeconded: Alan Gibson
Khabar LahariyaThis branch notes the work being done by the Khabar Lahariya collective of women journalists in India to promote stories about women’s rights for weekly distribution among marginalised communities, in exceptionally difficult circumstances [detailed in an article in The Guardian in March (http://gu.com/p/474p4/sbl)] and agrees to coordinate a fundraising campaign throughout the union to raise money for the collective. An initial target would be £500 to buy a scooter so that the journalist in the article will be able to travel without asking for rides, but depending on the amount raised a further target could be sponsoring a journalist for a year. This branch further agrees to donate £100 to the fundraising campaign.Proposed: Pete WrobelSeconded: Nick Wallace
National Gallery disputeThis branch notes the ongoing strike by PCS members at the National Gallery against the planned privatisation of their services.This branch resolves to:1) Contribute £200 to the strike fund.2) Encourage members to back the action with workplace collections, and to join the workers’ picket lines. Proposed: Gary MacFarlaneSeconded: Bettina Trebant
After the election – build the resistanceThis branch believes:1) Millions of people in Britain will be horrified by the General Election result. After five years of austerity the Tories will see their victory as a mandate for a huge swathe of further cuts to public services and the welfare state.2) The reason that Labour lost is not – as the likes of Tony Blair and the right wing press will say – because Milliband was too ‘left wing’. It is the opposite. Labour leaders failed to provide an alternative to austerity.3) The SNP did give a voice to the anti-austerity mood in Scotland and it paid off with a stunning 56 seats in parliament. Labour faced a meltdown. Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who have stood up to austerity, increased their majorities, as did Green MP Caroline Lucas.4) In the build up to the election, some in the unions adopted a ‘wait for Labour’ strategy. We can’t afford to wait another five years. Austerity and the Tories can be beaten by mass resistance to their policies. If we don’t fight we will definitely lose.5) The trade union movement has to learn the lessons of this election, but above all it has to urgently lead and reinvigorate the movement against austerity through protests and support for every group of workers striking back. And to really challenge austerity, national coordinated strike action has to urgently be put back on the agenda.6) We should work with anti-austerity organisations, such as the People’s Assembly, Unite the Resistance and Defend Council Housing to build the broadest possible resistance.Proposed: Alan GibsonSeconded: Adam Di Chiara
Movement against austerityThis branch resolves to support the following initiatives: On Saturday 30 May the PCS has called a national demonstration in support of the National Gallery strike.On Saturday 13 June, a Tenants and Housing Summit has been called by Defend Council Housing.Saturday 20 June the People’s Assembly has called for a mass demo in London against austerity.Proposed: Mona DohleSeconded: Caroline Price
Political representationThis union branch believes that in the aftermath of the General Election, and the renewed Tory attacks, there is an urgent need for a discussion across the trade union movement about how to resist these attacks, and how we can build real political representation for working class people.This union branch resolves to urge our union leaders to call for and organise with other unions a joint conference of trade union activists and anti‑austerity campaigners to debate and discuss how we can achieve political representation for working class people.Proposed: Alan GibsonSeconded: Ian Taylor