BECTU Sector conference delegates, Brighton, 7 May 2017. Pic Mark Dimmock
9 May 2017
Members at Picturehouse cinemas, campaigning long and hard for the Living Wage, secured the overwhelming backing of delegates at the union's first conference as part of Prospect.
Delegates from the enlarged BECTU Sector, meeting in Brighton on 7 May, and now part of the 140K strong Prospect union, pledged their support to living wage campaigners who have been striking at regular intervals since September 2016. T(he second phase of a campaign begun in 2014).
Representatives from all six divisions of the new BECTU - the Arts and Entertainment, BBC, Communications & Digital, Independent Broadcasting, London and Regional Production divisions - joined together to pledge their support for the campaign and to appeal to members across Prospect to lobby the Picturehouse chain to encourage settlement of the dispute. Union branches are being urged to hold fundraisers to boost the funds available to those who suffer hardship as a result of the strikes being taken.
Representatives for Picturehouse members, who are now organised in five London venues - Central, Crouch End, East Dulwich, Hackney and the Ritzy - as well as at the Duke of York's in Brighton - received a warm reception at the conference. Union members have stood up to a management determined to repel the claim for the living wage, despite the company's continuing profitability and expansion.
A emergency motion put forward by the Ritzy branch calling for appeals to the wider trade union movement and the TUC for contributions to the sector's hardship fund won the unanimous support of the more than 200 delegates present. However a motion, again submitted by the Ritzy, calling for the union to train lay officials to supervise picket lines was remitted. (Referred to the Sector Executive Committee for further consideration).
This year's event was the first opportunity for BECTU Sector representatives to come together since the merger (January 2017) and they seized the opportunity with great enthusiasm. Commmunications and Digital Division representatives played a significant role in the conference sharing their views on issues both 'closer to home' and of interest to the sector's membership generally.
A motion on Ofcom's Digital Communications Review underlined the threat to members' jobs posed by BT's agreement with the regulator to separate off Openreach, BT's broadband and telephone installation subsidiary, into a separate company.
As well as calling on the SEC to work to protect members' terms and conditions in the TUPE transfer (work which is well advanced), the motion also called for the appointment of workers' representatives on company boards. Both this motion, and one from C&D Greater London South and East calling for a robust response to the impact of digitalisation on the world of work, were endorsed by conference delegates.
Conference also reconfirmed its opposition to the privatisation of Channel4, which is publically owned but funded by advertising. Whilst the risks of a full scale privatisation were formally off the table at the time of conference, replaced instead by plans to relocate the broadcaster to Birmingham, conference was warned by Angie Mason, of the Writers Producers and Directors branch to remain vigilant on the issue.
A further emergency proposition called on BECTU's SEC to work with Prospect's NEC to encourage voter registration, particularly amongst 18-24 year olds, to increase the electorate in the 8 June election. The deadline for voter registration is Monday 22 May at 11.59pm.
Other highlights of the conference were general secretary Mike Clancy's speech and the genuine spirit of cooperation and engagement between delegates.
You can view Mike Clancy's speech here https://vimeo.com/channels/prospecttv/216390014
The event started with a really good video introducing the sector's divisions to each other, and members of the former BECTU to the range of vital services in the hands of Prospect members. Watch that video here: https://vimeo.com/212301121?ref=tw-share
A special conference dinner helped reps to build on the success of the conference by getting to know each other informally. The evening also saw the presentation of this year's awards to BECTU Sector and Prospect representatives and the roll call of officials being granted honorary membership.
A full report on the conference will appear in the July issue of Stage Screen and Radio.
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