Today Michelle Stanistreet became the first woman General Secretary to start her first day in office for one of the IFJ’s largest unions, the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland. Over the weekend, the National Executive Committee of the NUJ, of which I am a member, held various celebratory events to bid farewell to its old General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, who ran the show for ten momentous years.
Even before she started her first day in her new job, Stanistreet had to abandon her weekend plans and set the journalists’ case in response to the announcement made by the BBC Trust to cut the pay of some of its senior executives. The detailed revelations made by the chair of the trustees, Lord Patten, hinted that BBC managers would be targeted to show that the BBC is responding to the need to cut public spending. Executive pay has been a bone of contention for many years as unions fought wave after wave of cuts while managers shied away from pulling in their belt.
The pledge was made by Patten only days before the union announced the result of a ballot for national strike. Journalists and other BBC employees have been campaigning hard to defend the service against the ill-considered cuts to programme. BBC Director General Mark Thompson announced that he intends to go beyond the licence fee freeze and slash BBC budgets by 20%, about £400m, before April 2017. The NUJ is mobilising its members to resist the cuts, service closures and compulsory redundancies."