The Grey Cardigan 27.04.07

I am slightly baffled as to why the esteemed editor of this organ last week decided to devote three pages to reporting the National Union of Journalists’ annual conference. After all, what is it for and what has it got to do with most of us?

The union was rendered largely irrelevant by derecognition and, on returning to the fray, its members found themselves virtually powerless due to technical advances which mean that even the hapless Evening Beast management can now maintain production with a newsroom lackey, two postroom assistants and half adozen casual Mac jockeys from Uzbekistan.

So apart from a few localised disputes – none of which, as far as I can see, ended in anything resembling a victory – the flaccid forces of Headland House (aka Wolfie Smith and the Tooting Popular Front)

have had to sit on their hands and look on impotently while the regional newspaper industry, the bedrock of NUJ membership, has been dismantled about their members’ ears.

To be fair, the NUJ has never enjoyed real political muscle.

Organising journalists is a bit like herding cats and, on the few occasions that we did get it together – and I’m thinking late ’70s here – the appalling judgement of our leaders always seemed to have us out on the picket line in the run-up to Christmas. (And what about that brotherly spirit with our comrades in the print unions? No-one has yet explained to me why we were required to respect their picket lines while those bastard inkies could waltz casually through ours.)

I say “we” and “our” because, dear reader, I’ve done my time as a FoC. The job that traditionally went to what one editor of mine called “Trots and clots” came my way in the usual fashion – I’d made the mistake of leaving a chapel meeting early to go on a night job and returned to find myself unanimously elected. Oh, the joy of those interminable House Agreement negotiations, where it took hours to agree a 3p increase in the Evening Dinner Jacket Allowance in return for an informal understanding that the graffiti campaign in the Gents accusing the MD of playing hide-the-sausage with the ad director’s secretary would cease forthwith.

I departed office, and the NUJ, around about the time that the mad Lefties who ran the joint started sending love letters to Colonel Gaddafi. Quite what that had to do with the accruement of lieu days in return for extra weekend hours worked in Scunthorpe, I’ll never know. But wait, what’s this? The new improved NUJ is at it again, voting by 66 votes to 54 last week to boycott Israeli goods in protest against their “aggression” towards Palestinian states. Again, what has this got to do with the accruement of lieu days in return for extra weekend hours worked in Scunthorpe?

If the NUJ wants to keep a meaningful role for itself, then it must tackle the corporate fat cats who pocket millions in salaries and bonuses while presiding over a short-term regime of funding increased dividends through terminal cost-cutting. The name Sylvia Bailey springs to mind for starters. So go for the shareholders Wolfie, instead of wittering about the origin of my oranges. Get some pressure on those pension funds. The little old ladies and retired bank managers might like the dividends, but they don’t like to think they’re being ripped off by avaricious executives.

I know that times are hard when it comes to ad revenue, but was it really necessary for the Daily Express to prostitute itself quite so much to the demands of the Cheltenham & Gloucester? And then stick that Co-op food ad opposite as well? We can only be thankful that subversive subs managed to get apoisoning story on the spread.

Still, I suppose such an accommodating approach is appropriate for a media empire whose prosperity is built on offering an extremely wide range of other personal services… You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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