Friday, May 31

Women Chainmakers' Festival returns to Cradley Heath

The 2013 Women Chainmakers' festival will be held at Bearmore Park, Cradley Heath on Saturday 8th June. Check out our promotional video on YouTube or watch it here.

The Birmingham and Coventry branch of the NUJ has supported the festival - the only outdoor festival to commemorate women in trade unions - for a number of years and would invite all branch members to come along and celebrate the achievements of the women chainmakers' of Cradley Heath.

Monday, May 27

NUJ June Branch Meeting

Wednesday 12th June 2013
Kahawa Cafe
163 New Union Street
6:00 pm for 6:30 start

Any apologies to branch chair:


1) Introduction by chair/those attending

2) Minutes of May meeting (Attached)

3) Secretary/Treasurers reports

4) Branch reports

5) Up date on disputes

6) Any other business

Monday, May 20

Ozen Sengulen, Feedback - Press Freedom Day - 3.05.2013
On the day of Press Freedom Day the meeting organised by NUJ was on the issue of the journalists in jail in Turkey.
The first speaker Coskun Musluk, academician and columnist, attended the meeting through Skype.  He spent more than one year in jail without any charge against him.  He highlighted the unlawfulness of the process by saying that “my release is as unlawful as my arrest.”
The second speaker was European Federation of Journalists Turkey campaign co-ordinator Mehmet Koksal, who is also vice president of the Belgian journalists association.  He showed the example of the newspaper, Arrested Gazette, issued by the journalists in jail, who hold different political views, but all stand in common against the unlawful policies of the government.  He said that all journalists coming from different ideologies such as Kurdish movement, nationalist or socialist were now fighting against the same enemy, AKP.  

The third speaker, T
UC policy officer Sean Bamford mentioned that the oppression was not only against journalists, it was against anybody, women, Kurdish, unions who want to express their opinions.  He gave the example from the May Day celebration and the police brutality against it.

International Federation of Journalists president Jim Boumelha informed us that the study of associated press in 2011 released that one third of 13.000 terrorist convictions worldwide handed down by Turkish state.  He also touched the role of `Muslim democracy` played by Turkish government on the region, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria

The meeting finished with solidarity messages from both the platform and the floor.

Wednesday, May 15

Alan Taman -  Reporting on our Health Services - NUJ Masterclass

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. Or where. Or why. But, sooner or later, it could be for you. And it could be happening because another hospital care scandal is taking lives - but not being reported, or is made public later than it would have, or is reported badly. And that's something the NUJ should be trying to stop.

The NUJ Masterclass - Reporting on our health services (  - held on 11 April was damning of the way the 'New' NHS in England has been set up. John Lister (Coventry University lecturer in journalism and organiser for Health Emergency (, the campaign to prevent hospital closures) described its labyrinthine structure and how there were, now, grave doubts about which bits of the new beast were accountable - or even whether they had to be. Sentiments echoed by Branwen Jeffrys, BBC health correspondent, and Shaun Lintern, the reporter on the Express & Star in Stafford who broke the Mid Staffs scandal story.

Shaun's story was particularly compelling. His editors at the E&S had initially allowed him to spend all of his time on the Mid Staffs Inquiry for a year, making him health correspondent to do so. But then the questions started - despite the fact that Shaun was still filling the paper with appalling tales of lapsed care and people dying needlessly as the hapless Trust management made the Trust jump through financial hoops to gain the 'gold star' of Foundation status. 'Do you have to go?', 'Can't you cover this as well?'. Shaun left the paper shortly after that, head-hunted by the Health Service Journal, and critically his post has not been filled. In fact, his former colleagues at the E&S still ring him and ask his advice on health stories.

A pattern of declination which, the meeting felt, was almost certainly reflected nationwide - especially in print. In this branch's area, we've lost 2 of the 3 print health specialists we had a few years ago and the third has to cover other areas as well as health. There remain the health elite in the specialist journals, such as the HSJ and the Nursing Times, and broadcasting so far has held on to most of its health reporters. There are still many excellent freelance health writers. But there probably isn't the specialist coverage there used to be - and the next hospital scandal is far more likely to be outside London, with its specialist hospitals, as not. Who will be there to notice?

The concern over coverage was matched by one for standards. With more non-specialists having to cover health and fewer specialists on hand, there was a danger of poor reporting as well as missing stories completely. Example: MMR and measles. The trend towards journalists acting as gatherers of information on line and monitors of 'UGC' (user generated content) was described by Paul Bradshaw, a Birmingham University lecturer in online journalism. His online resource [] was helping to ensure standards were kept up, and there are other resources (eg But the meeting felt there needed to be more.

Including health PRs was seen as equally important. More journalists are switching to health PR, yet many have to work alone or in small teams, without peer support and at the mercy of NHS management ideas about what constitutes 'loyalty' when working with journalists. It can be almost impossible to retain professional standards in those circumstances, let alone 'tell truth to power', and the union could certainly offer a great deal of support.

A determination to campaign for higher standards in health reporting, create and develop resources on health which all journalists covering health could use, and contact and support health PRs has so far resulted in an agreement to survey health specialists and PRs nationally, publicise the campaign both nationally and at branch level, and start to build good resources.

If you cover health either in house or as a freelance and want to know more or can help publicise the campaign, please contact Alan Taman (, Birmingham & Coveentry Branch Vice-Chair.

Tuesday, May 14

Women Chainmakers Festival 2013

Saturday 8th June
11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Bearmore Park
Bearmore Road,
Cradley Heath
B64 6DU

Every year the trade union movement gathers in the Midlands town of Cradley Heath to remember a great victory won by women workers. This year's festival is on Saturday 8 June

In 1910 women chainmakers in the Black Country struck for 10 weeks against sweatshop labour conditions and low pay. The previous year the Liberal government had acceded to campaigns against 'sweated labour' by creating wage boards to set wage levels in some industries.

The employers and middlemen in the chain making industries combined to ensure that no woman would receive the new higher wage. The middlemen pressured the often illiterate chainmakers to sign opt-out contracts, denying them the wage rise that was their due.

When union organiser Maray Macarthur arrived in Cradley Heath in the Black Country she described the scenes she saw as 'white slaves working in torture chambers'. Women worked for 54 hours a week for a pittance, often taking their children to work. On discovering the duplicity of the employers in cheating the women out of their wage rise she set about organising the workers.

For 10 weeks women chainmakers fought against the employers. They were well organised and knew how to use the new media of the time to spread their message. They printed placards which the oldest women chainmakers were photographed holding and shortly before the strike 10 million people all over the world saw a Pathe news reel film about the conditions the women worked under. The indefateaguable Mary Macarthur raised so much money for the strikers that they didn't lose a penny during the ten week strike, receiving full strike pay throughout.

In honour of the women of Cradley Heath, the annual Chainmakers Festival remembers their victory and reminds us that the struggles won by our ancestors are the basis for much of what we take for granted today. See our leaflet 'What have the unions done for us?' for more info about what unions have won for workers.

Tuesday, May 7

Bangladesh Garment Workers Deaths - Worlds Worst Industrial Disaster
Death toll from the collapse of an eight-storey factory building near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, now stands at 705, officials say. The announcement came after workers pulled dozens more bodies from the rubble. Many people are still missing.

The previous most deadly structural failure in modern times -  was the Sampoong department store in Seoul, South Korea, in 1995, in which 502 people died. Hundreds of garment workers who survived the collapse have protested by blocking a highway close to the accident site demanding unpaid wages and benefits.
Source BBC News

Sign the Online Petition:  here . . . . .

Monday, May 6

Press Freedom in the Digital Age: New Threats, New Challenges
As growing portions of journalistic activity take place on the Internet, Europe has not become a safer place for those expressing critical opinions. Clearly, people reporting can reach out faster and to a broader audience than before. But old and new threats await them when they decide to do so: violence, intimidation, prosecution for lawful speech, judicial harassment and surveillance of those reporting continue unabated in the digital era, including in Europe.

 Every day, the Internet carries free expression in the public interest to people around Europe and elsewhere. This is the way in which, for instance, more and more people become aware of corruption, maladministration, unethical behaviour by public officials and businesses, and serious human rights violations. Bloggers, reporting citizens and others have therefore joined traditional journalists in the ranks of those who are at risk of retaliation by state authorities or interest groups (e.g., organized crime, rival ethnic or religious groups)
Read more: Commissioner for Human Rights, <>  03/05/13