Bernard Smyth attended ADM on behalf of Bristol branch as an observer and to attend the launch of NUJ 60 Plus. He reports…
A new “club” for NUJ members over 60 was launched at ADM on November 19. NUJ 60 Plus will be open to the 6,000 members who qualify. At the launch Deputy General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the organisation could bring lots of advantages to the union.
The members – many of whom were not involved in the union at the moment – could enrich its work. The NUJ needed to tap into the experience of its older members, who could mentor freelances and others who work alone, Michelle added.
Launching NUJ 60 Plus, former Observer columnist Katharine Whitehorn, still working as the Saga magazine agony aunt, said we faced an odd situation where the young often knew more than their elders, especially where new technology was concerned.
There was concern that there were not enough young people working to pay the pensions of the growing number of old folk. But then it was proposed to change the retirement age. “You can’t have it both ways,” she added. As the Saga agony aunt, Katharine dealt with old people’s problems, which included, for example, daughters-in-law from hell and questions over whether to move house or not.
When government policy was drawn up, no one seemed to think of the effect of change on older people, she said. For example, it was proposed to reduce the time available for pedestrians to cross the road. Katharine also railed against the use of small typefaces that were difficult to read and bicycles ridden on the pavement. So the more groups there were to look after the interests of old people the better, she added. She urged the government to take on board the problems of old people and to keep their promises.
Pat Healy, chair of the union’s pensioners’ committee, who also chaired the meeting, said NUJ 60 Plus was restricted by rule 22 so that it could meet only once a year and could not table motions to ADM.
So older members needed to go back to their branches and get them to propose changes to this rule. She also urged branches to affiliate to the National Pensioners Conventions regional bodies. Pat also said there were different types of retired members with different rights. Some could vote on union matters, some could not, for instance.
One member said one meeting a year was not enough – older members needed to know what was going on and to debate what should be done.
General Secretary Jeremy Dear said some branches such as London Freelance might have funds to host meetings of NUJ 60 Plus and the group could also use the union website. Pat Healy, who said HQ had a database of members over 60 so contact could be made with them, suggested that the next meeting should be in September 2010, whenever ADM was held.
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