British journalists work the longest hours for the lowest pay with the fewest rights and the shortest holidays in Europe – so said NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear at the TUC conference in Brighton.
“Working life has been characterised for too long by low pay, long hours, increased stress and illness,” he said. “We know of a pro?table newspaper where journalists earn £8,750 a year. They can supplement their income by cleaning their own of?ce after work.”
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Dear told the conference that 10 per cent of NUJ members earn under £12,000 a year. In London some members claim state bene?ts and are trying to pay off student debts. “Many of our members end up working 45, 50 and 60 hours a week.
Some sign individual opt-outs from the Working Time Regulations because they have to or fear losing their job. We’ve seen record numbers of cases of bullying, of stress at work.
Three of our members have committed suicide, at least one directly blamed by their families on stress at work.”
Dear said the Government had a chance to put things right by improving employees’ rights in the current review of the Employment Relations Act but failed to take it. “The fundamental basic right to negotiate on pensions, equality and training is apparently a step too far.
Sweetheart deals that take away the rights of existing union members are legitimised. “The anti-union laws don’t create fairness,” he said, “they create greater inequality in the workplace.”
Delegates at the conference voted unanimously for a militant campaign to improve pay and conditions in the workplace.