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April 9, 2001updated 17 May 2007 11:30am

NUJ conference report: 1,000 new members thanks to recognition deals

By Press Gazette

Dave Toomer

Membership of the NUJ has risen by more than 1,000 in a year boosted by new agreements recognising the union in the workplace, its annual delegate meeting in Scarborough heard. Click here for further reports and pictures

Outgoing NUJ president Dave Toomer described the return of recognition as "the jewel in the crown" in the drive to attract new members.

"It has led to the revival of chapels and branches and the recruitment of more than 1,000 members in the last year," he said.

All pictures courtesy of Dobson Agency

Toomer told the conference there were now 3,000 union members covered by the new recognition agreements, the latest at the Westmorland Gazette.

But he warned that some major companies were still not prepared to accept the new agreements. "Associated and News International are the hardest nuts to crack," he said.

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Jeremy Dear

National organiser Jeremy Dear told the conference that the NUJ was preparing its first statutory claim for union recognition at three of Associated’s Northcliffe regional newspaper centres in Gloucester, Stoke and Bristol. He said the union was also opposing an attempt by News International’s staff association to win certification as an independent trade union.

The NUJ is to seek statutory recognition at The Independent after eight months of talks failed to reach a voluntary agreement.

Dear said the NUJ was confident of reaching a recognition agreement with the new owners of Express Newspapers.

The battle against the 145 redundancies at Express Newspapers could be the most important fight in national newspapers since Wapping, he claimed.

The redundancies and the sale and subsequent liquidation of the Express Digital Media websites by Northern & Shell, which cost 46 journalists’ jobs, was condemned by the conference.

Dear claimed other "promising" recognition talks were taking place at the Eastern Daily Press, Jewish Chronicle, Newcastle Chronicle and Journal, Coventry Evening Telegraph, the Western Mail and Echo and the Regional Independent Media titles in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

However, he said some companies were trying to find loopholes in the new legislation.

The union is challenging a claim by Dimbleby Newspapers that it is exempt because it says it has less than 20 full-time staff.

John Foster

NUJ general secretary John Foster told the conference recognition had been "more successful than we dreamed of" but said there were still big holes in the employment legislation.

"We still have the worst employment laws in Western Europe," he said.

Recognised chapels only have the right to negotiate on pay, hours and holidays. Delegates voted in favour of the union lobbying the Government to amend the Employment Relations Act 1999 to include negotiating rights "for all terms and conditions".

by Jon Slattery

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