I had to write something about the National Union of Journalists' strike ballot at RBI because a) it affects me and b) it is missing an important point.
I am a member of the union, which is why I feel strongly about what I am seeing. I don't want to go into the detail of the RBI situation but I do want to raise the one issue that seems to be lost in much of the NUJ's recent efforts to defend jobs.
That issue is training. We all know how quickly the media is changing both the way we produce and consume and share information. This change is challenging us all to come up with new business models.
It is also challenging us to change the way we work and that means adopting new attitudes (open, keen to learn, share and do things differently) and skills.
Right now the job of the union should be to help members upskill for digital publishing. And this means pushing employers to provide the relevant training and opportunities. Who knows, could that even mean using training resource collabaratively for the greater good of journalists?
At RBI there is no learning rep and a look at the NUJ training site reveals that the new skills agenda is not being pushed.
When it comes to new business models, the NUJ also has an opportunity to work with employers to help shape new ways of working and of making money. Is this happening? I don't know but I suspect not.
Strangest of all is the fact that these are very exciting times to be in the media (in terms of learning new skills, raising your profile etc) – but you would not think so.
This is a period of immense change and those of us who work in the media need to keep abreast of this change. And organisations that represent those that work in the media must keep pushing the training agenda. These are collaborative times, so let's collaborate.
No one wants to see jobs lost but until we find new ways of making money to replace sliding print revenues this is the reality.
What will be even more tragic is if the NUJ fails to rise to the training challenge because it is too busy 'defending jobs'.
I would have expected a bit more creativity at a time like this (do unions do creativity?) and more focus on what members need to do to be employable. We know there will be more jobs lost across the industry but the union could and should be mapping out what a future in digital publishing will look like.
Surely other unions are addressing the same issues and challenges right now? Maybe my time as a member is coming to an end as I am out of step with current NUJ thinking.
But the debate about the role of unions during periods of change is one that needs to be ongoing
I'll post a link to this on the NUJ at RBI blog.