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National Union of Journalists: Standing up against the robber barons
"I'd rather die." These were comments reportedly made by one newspaper employer outside his hotel in Manchester, when asked whether he wanted to take an National Union of Journalists (NUJ) leaflet about the NUJ "stand up for journalism" day of action on 5 November.
At a time when jobs are cut, editorial standards go down and working conditions are worsened in order to guarantee the highest possible profit margin for the robber barons owning the British "free" press, it is reassuring to see good old-fashioned class hatred alive and kicking.
All over the country, journalists organised protests to highlight the issues at stake. In London, around 100 BBC journalists protested against the draconian job cuts instigated by the government. It is clear that despite claiming to stick to a framework agreement with the union, BBC managers are carrying on with their cuts agenda.
In Manchester, freelance and casual workers have effectively been made redundant as they are the easiest ones to sack. This is a warning sign and shows the determination of BBC managers. A determined campaign of strike action, uniting all BBC staff and freelances, has to be organised to defend jobs. At the same time, BBC unions should campaign for the right of full employment for casuals.
That militancy can win was also proven during the day of action. Local newspaper journalists in Coventry threatened strike action and were planning to hold a disruptive workplace meeting on the day on the issue of staff shortages.
Employers try to have staff working the longest hours possible with the least number of employees, so they can pocket more profits. Because of the threatened strikes, managers had to agree to employ five more people.
The NUJ should take heart from this example and encourage national, coordinated strike action in the local newspaper sector.
In Manchester, 70 people took part in a protest outside the Society of Editors conference. Apparently, "trust" was the main motto of this meeting. Editors waxed lyrical about how big a future there is for newspapers in Britain.
But activists have to carry on building democratic branch and workplace structures, involving as many staff and freelances as possible. Only if this is done, combined with a determination to fight and win, can the bosses' offensive be driven back.
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