No subs rise for high earners for now
LONDON FREELANCE Branch had a double moral victory in the recent NUJ Delegate Meeting's (DM's) vital debate on the union's finances.
The NUJ faced a financial crisis last year when rising costs, notably in funding its pension scheme, combined with the fact there had been no rise in subscriptions ("subs") for six years. Ironically the pandemic relieved the position because the union was spared the cost of holding the physical meetings integral to our democracy - including the DM itself.
Only the DM can change the union's subs rates. London Freelance Branch strongly supported a move from the National Executive Council (NEC) to finally raise the level, which was overwhelmingly passed. But LFB went beyond that.
To further increase income, and make the system fairer, we proposed an additional higher rate for high-paid members. Like other unions, the NUJ asks members to pay up to 1 per cent of their earnings, but this applies only to average and low-paid members.
The present ceiling for the top subs rate is an annual income of £29,000. So everyone earning more than that pays the same rate of £25 a month. LFB proposed a rate of £40 a month for members earning over £50,000.
Delegate Tim Gopsill presented comparisons with the subs collected by sister media unions, all of which climb much higher as pay levels rise. Broadcast workers in BECTU on £70,000, for instance, pay three times as much as a journalist in the NUJ.
The move was opposed by the NEC, which was worried that it would lead to some members, especially on national papers, leaving the union. The NEC spoke against, as did reps from national media - though a delegate from the Guardian NUJ Chapel, Tom Davies, gave his support. As it happens Tom, a sports writer, is a former Secretary of LFB.
When it came to the vote, DM voted for our proposal by 55 to 45 per cent - but it failed to carry. Motions on matters such as raising subscription rates have to secure a two-thirds majority. Shortly before the debate the Standing Orders Committee, which arranges conference procedures, had changed the status of the LFB motion which meant a simple majority would not be enough.
Tim Gopsill said afterwards: "It was a moral victory because we got majority support, but also because the principle must now have been established. Perhaps we asked a bit too much this time, but I'm sure the next DM will agree to ask our highly-paid colleagues to pay the union their fair share."
- This article was updated on 07/07/21 to add an image.