Political fund will force' NUJ members to resign

Snow: ‘100 per cent against’ political campaign fund

The NUJ is facing the prospect of resignations if it sets up a fund for political campaigning.

The union said the proposed fund was just a legal requirement and would not affect the organisation’s political impartiality. But broadcast journalists in particular have expressed concern that it will undermine their political independence.

The decision to set up the fund was taken at the union’s Annual Delegate Meeting last year and goes out to a national ballot from 23 February to 19 March.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “UK law says that all unions must have a political fund if they want to spend money to campaign on issues that have a political content. And under the legislation, introduced by the Conservatives in the Eighties, unions must hold a ballot of all their members to set up such a fund.

“The Political Campaigns Fund will be used to fight for a list of changes in the law and to defend rights the trade union movement has already won.”

He said political issues affecting the union included employment law, media ownership, libel and access to official information. It is proposed members pay a levy of 50p a month but there is an option to opt out.

Ros Bayley, vice-chairman of London Freelance Branch, is among those opposing the move. She said: “The issue for me is whether we need to maintain a more independent position in order to keep a whole range of journalists in the union. There’s a danger that if you become more political in the way you campaign some journalists may resign.

“I don’t think it’s true that we need a political fund. If you look at the law you can say anything you like on any issue.

The only time you have to be careful is if there’s an election happening.”

Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow said he would be forced to leave the NUJ if the political fund was agreed.

He said: “I’m 100 per cent against it. I think the union’s constitution is perfectly elastic enough to enable us to do what is our main task, which is to safeguard the interests and welfare of members.

“A political fund, however well intentioned, is bound to start doing things on behalf of journalists that we don’t necessarily want done. Part of my contract is that I don’t engage in any form of political activity. I don’t regard being in a trade union as a political activity, but as a human right.”

The various London branches of the NUJ have organised a debate on the issue to be held at the Friends House, Euston Road, from 7.30pm on Thursday, 12 February, open to union members only.

By Dominic Ponsford

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