Outrage as broadcaster signs recognition deal with union that has no members
The NUJ has called on supporters of trade union rights to condemn the British Association of Journalists which has clinched a sweetheart deal with Iran International, despite the overwhelming number of journalists there being members of the NUJ who were engaged in a recognition bid.
The NUJ had been in talks with the broadcaster to secure trade union recognition since the beginning of this year. Iran International refused to engage with ACAS and then revealed it had signed a recognition deal with BAJ, a journalists’ union with just 850 members, none of whom are at Iran International.
The NUJ had been supporting members at Iran International who have faced harassment and threats to their families in Iran, and threats of action against them in London, by Iranian state officials. Similar tactics have been used against staff in the BBC Persian Service over the past decade.
As an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, the NUJ has lobbied the international community, via the UN, in support of press freedom and to put pressure on the Iranian state to stop its intimidation of journalists.
A statement from the NUJ’s Emergency Committee said it was “wholly unethical and unprincipled for any union worthy of the name to trample over the rights of workers, or to deny a collective voice through the union they choose, rather than one chosen by an employer”.
BAJ had previously no known members nor presence at the company. There is a now BAJ “rep”, a senior manager appointed by the union and management, and staff are now being put under pressure to join the union, which is not affiliated to the TUC and has no international trade union connections.
In a letter sent to BAJ and its NEC on Saturday night, asking for the union to withdraw its agreement, the NUJ Iran International chapel said it was “stunned” to see the announcement of the deal with BAJ the previous night, adding: “As a chapel of minority ethnic workers, our voice has been completely taken away from us by an organisation that pretends to stand up for workers.”
The NUJ Emergency Committee statement said the NUJ would continue to negotiate with Iran International “to achieve a sensible outcome that represents the wishes of the majority of the workers in the bargaining unit”. The NUJ is prepared to fight the case through the courts and via a complaint to the International Labour Organisation if a solution is not found.
The union has now launched a campaign to support members at Iran International and their right to be represented by their union of choice; not one foisted on them by management. It is asking all NUJ chapels and branches, the TUC and wider trade union movement and the general public to offer their solidarity to the Iran International chapel and will be raising the issue in Parliament via the NUJ’s cross-party Parliamentary Group.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Our members have worked hard to build up their NUJ chapel and to progress collective bargaining to secure a genuinely independent collective voice at work. That voice has been denied them by the actions of BAJ, just as our recognition application was in its final straits. Union-busting should have no place in our workplaces or our society.
“Our members at Iran International have faced intimidation and harassment for their work as journalists – that their rights of freedom of association should be trampled on in this way is a grave injustice and one that the NUJ will do all it can to rectify.”
NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul Siergert said: “If BAJ had any morals or understanding of what trade unions stand for then they would do the decent thing and tear up this agreement with Iran International. It is not too late to do the right thing and walk away rather than join forces with management and help silence the voice of workers.”
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