Thursday 7 June 2012

London borough journalists launch NUJ branch

Journalists in the London Borough of Lewisham have launched a local branch of the NUJ.

Lewisham NUJ says it has more than 500 members resident in Lewisham, and union members resident in neighbouring boroughs are welcome to join.

NUJ organisation in London has traditionally centred on city-wide trade sector branches.

Lewisham NUJ says it will operate in a different way to other union branches. For  example, its monthly meetings will not be fixed to a specific day of the week or location. Instead, meeting places will move around the borough, and the day varied to allow involvement by members with other commitments.

The new branch says it will welcome into its ranks communications professionals of all types who live or work within this local community.

Coordinating the work of Lewisham NUJ are branch chair Dr Francis Sedgemore, secretary Chris Wheal, and treasurer Lynne Wallis.

Wheal says: “The idea of the Lewisham NUJ branch started several years ago, having noticed how many NUJ members from SE London hardly ever go to the union meetings. Recently, the union's general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, who lives in the borough, encouraged me to take action on this idea, so I did.

"I attended the London Magazine Branch meetings for about 20 years. The quorum there was reduced over the years from 25 to 15 to 10, and sometimes we couldn't get 10. The branch had more than 2,500 members. Other big London branches are the same.

“Participation is important, and we want a variety of people and views to make the union truly democratic. When there is low turnout, one is at risk of getting minority political parties rustling up enough activists to turn up and dominate branch business, and pass motions donating money to obscure political causes.

"That in itself alienates other members, and prevents people turning up. I wanted Lewisham branch to be different – not, I hasten to add, because I am apolitical (I'm not), but I didn't want to see my union used like that.”

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