Thu - 18.01.2018

Financial crisis at NUJ provokes consternation from members

Financial crisis at NUJ provokes consternation from members

The UK’s National Union of Journalists is facing a “severe financial crisis,” according to a memo, written last month by the union’s general secretary Michelle Stanistreet.

In the memo, Stanistreet outlined the cuts that would be necessary in order to get the union back on track financially, including a £400,000 reduction in payroll costs and nine staff being made redundant. However, Press Gazette reports today that the union is now facing a “grassroots revolt” from members who don’t want to see the cuts go through.

According to the Stanistreet’s memo, the NUJ is suffering from a drop in subscription income, a crisis with its pension scheme, pressure on its members from the problems facing the journalism industry, and a reduction in assets and reserve cash as a result of “successive deficits.” “This combination of factors mean we have to take action,” writes Stanistreet, “sitting back and doing nothing is not an option.”

The numbers look very bad indeed. Membership has dropped by 18% during the past five years, according to the memo. Stanistreet writes that the union is running on a deficit of more than £20,000 per month, and had an overall deficit of £267,000 at the end of February. It holds cash reserves of just £300,000 – enough to fund three weeks running costs. If immediate action isn’t taken, Stanistreet says that the union will be bankrupt by October. Its only asset is its head office, Headland House, which has seen its value decrease from £3.5 million to £2.7 million, she writes. There is a deficit in the UK pensions scheme, which is expected to be valued somewhere between £0.5 million and £4 million.

To address the situation, two weeks ago the NUJ announced that its National Executive Council (NEC) had voted to implement “cuts across all areas of union expenditure” including laying off staff. As the Guardian describes, the NUJ agreed to reduce its payroll costs by £400,000, shake up the pension scheme, renegotiate contracts and try to recruit new members in order to boost subscription revenue. Stanistreet also wrote in her memo that the NUJ would seek to increase subscription fees to raise revenue, and that a motion had been passed to reduce Delegate Meetings to once every two years. 

However, today Press Gazette reports, “splits are beginning to emerge over the handling of the budget." A group within the journalism union named NUJ Left wrote on its website today that the Manchester and Salford branch of the union had unanimously passed a motion calling for an “immediate suspension of the ‘Rescue Plan’ and a comprehensive consultation process to be put into place.”

NUJ Left also writes that a motion has been passed by the London Photographers Branch of the union, opposing both compulsory lay offs for NUJ staff and a reduction in the number of NUJ delegate meetings, but supporting the drive to increase union membership.

NUJ will hold a meeting at the end of this month to talk about the scheduled cuts. The meeting is expected to be "lively," says Press Gazette.

Sources: Press Gazette, Guardian (1) (2), Stanistreet Memo, NUJ, NUJ Left


Hannah Vinter


2012-06-06 18:04

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