NUJ warns of financial crisis as membership levels decline

The National Union of Journalists is preparing a major drive to recruit and retain members, after it posted a £112,000 subscriptions shortfall and its first membership decline in seven years.

General secretary Jeremy Dear, writing in the union’s annual report, said: ‘Six thousand redundancies across the industry in the past two years have had a knock-on impact on union membership and subscriptions income.

‘The union faces an extremely difficult financial situation. Without strong action it will become a financial crisis. Some unpopular decisions will have to be made as we prioritise our work.”

The number of full-paying members in the financial year ending 30 September 2007 was down one per cent to 28,311– a net loss of 289. Broadcasting and provincial newspapers were the sectors with the heaviest losses.

NUJ membership manager John Eaton said the number of people leaving the union in 2007 was no higher than in other years. The membership fall was, he said, the result of a lack of new recruits. ‘Hopefully this is a temporary downward trend,’he said. ‘I know many efforts are being made to recruit members.”

The subscriptions shortfall has had a knock-on effect on the union’s finances. In its annual report, the NUJ revealed a £269,000 loss last year, up from £193,000 in 2006.

The 2007 accounts reveal debts of £780,000, including a £447,000 bank overdraft. The NUJ staff pension fund is facing a £1.6m shortfall, and the union said it was ‘still in negotiations to find a recovery package”.

Finance officer Anita Halpin said the union was under tight financial constraints. ‘This situation can be managed with extremely tight budgeting,’she said.

‘The minute anyone loses sight of the need to do this, our assets will become vulnerable and we will be hurtling headlong into another financial crisis.”

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