Democracy in action - virtually
IN NORMAL times the London Freelance Branch Annual General Meeting (AGM) would take place in the basement meeting room of , the NUJ's HQ, with elections of its officers by a show of hands. Tellers would count votes if things got close.
But in this exceptional covid year, voting in January's AGM was by Zoom's green "Yes" and red "No" buttons - for those who could find them - or via the "Raise hand" function on Zoom's "Actions" menu. Voting wasn't made easier by the fact the Zoom seems recently to have replaced the blue "Zoom hands" we were supposed to raise while voting with new, yellow "Zoom hands" that are confusingly similar in colour to the "thumbs up" and "applause" symbols.
There was a great variety of slightly different versions of the Zoom online meetings platform in use among members, with their various different devices displaying (or not) the various voting tools, but we got there in the end.
Matt Salusbury was re-elected Chair. There is a vacancy for a co-chair. Alistair Dabbs was elected Secretary – a post he's held previously. Jenny Vaughan was re-elected Treasurer, with Dapo Lapomeji elected to a new post of Deputy Treasurer.
Phil Sutcliffe reprises his role as Membership and New Member's Secretary for another year. There is a vacancy for a co-pilot for Phil to support him in his duties.
The current editorial team of the Freelance newsletter and website were re-elected – Mike Holderness as editor, Matt Salusbury as deputy editor and Nicci Talbot was re-elected as social media officer, running the Branch's Twitter account @NUJ_LFB and Facebook page.
Also re-elected was Tim Dawson, Branch Welfare Officer, who is the contact for members in need and seeking assistance via the Union's independent charity NUJ Extra. There is a vacancy for a second welfare officer. The Branch has traditionally striven to have two of these - one male and one female.
The Branch now has two Training Officers again. Helen Hague was re-elected to the post, joined in the post by a new face on the Committee – Romana Sustar.
Len Mulholland and Jon Holden were re-elected as Negotiations Officers, bringing with them considerable experience as negotiators on behalf of members at the Guardian and the BBC respectively. Equalities Officers Federica Tedeschi and Safi Tazib are back, following their re-election.
This year's Members Without Portfolio on the Committee, dealing with issues as they arise – are Baris Cimen, Tim Gopsill, Magda Ibrahim, Dapo Ladimeji, Francesca Marchese and Stuart Smith - Tim Gopsill after standing down as Branch Secretary. The Branch thanks Tim for his hard work, and also thanks Tony Levene, who stood down after being co-Secretary with Tim in 2020. Thanks are also due to Nick Renaud-Komiya, who stood down as Co-chair at the end of 2020, and to Elizabeth Chappell, who was Member Without Portfolio on last year's Committee.
LFB also welcomes Victoria Rosenthal, who will be joining Committee meetings as an observer, as LFB's Student Representative.
There are still two vacancies for members without portfolio and a vacancy for Co-chair and for a second Membership Secretary. For more on Committee posts and what they entail, see here.
Job shares are encouraged. The Branch accepts that there may be members who are happy to stand for a post at a time when meetings are all Zoom-based, but who may not be able to continue once meetings are in Central London again. LFB is happy to welcome new Committee members on that basis.
The AGM opened with former NUJ President Barbara Gunnell paying tribute to the late Katharine Whitehorn, who was a journalist and "very, very proud London Freelance Branch member".
Caroline Holmes of NUJ Professional Training spoke at AGM about the upcoming Working Safely Through the Pandemic webinar. We also heard from NUJ Freelance Officer Pamela Morton, who gave us an update following Brexit. Pamela urged members planning on going abroad to any EU Member State for work (once any travel is possible again) to check whether they need a visa or work permit.
The Branch agreed that a Remuneration Committee, being set up by our Treasurer, would look into the fees the Branch pays to the Freelance team and its social media officer. This body could include lay members not on the Committee.
As it was a busy meeting, a vote on a motion on Branch officers having to make urgent decisions between Branch meetings was deferred until the February meeting. Such decisions are usually around membership applications, so new members can quickly apply for Press Cards to evidence their need to be out and about for work during lockdown.