The National Union of Journalists is facing an internal rebellion over plans to close its training department.
A group of 17 prominent union members are calling for a halt to plans to close the department and outsource training to another organisation.
The proposals, which have put two jobs at risk, are part of a bid to save £400,000 from the union’s budget which could also see a rise in member subscriptions.
The NUJ’s training department has operated for more than a decade, providing professional training to journalists and training to union representatives.
The rebellion is being led by Financial Times chapel officials Steve Bird and Dave Crouch, who submitted an alternative recovery plan to the NUJ’s National Executive Committee meeting last month, backed by members from other branches.
Steve, who is the Father of Chapel, said: “Our members feel very strongly that it is wrong. We rely on the training department and it is one of the core strengths of the union.
“We are concerned that this is being done without any costing of alternatives so it could end up costing the union more.”
He added there had been no consultation with the membership over plans to close the department.
Other members opposed to the closure include Diana Peasey, chair of the Nottingham NUJ; Stalingrad O’Neil, NEC member representing the Midlands; Chris Wheal, chair of ProfCom and member of Lewisham NUJ branch; and Kath Grant, branch secretary representing the Manchester and Salford branch committee.
They said in a statement: “The proposal to close the training department has no justifiable economic rationale and the political costs will be very high. Making unnecessary redundancies is bad enough, doing so while spending on consultants’ fees and union expenses are unchecked is unacceptable.
“The proposal to outsource our training department, which consistently wins external grant funding bids because of its proven high standards, will also risk an invaluable asset in recruiting members and training chapel officers, both vital in the present climate.
“Any move to close the training department should be halted immediately. An outstanding UNIONLEARN funding award, already won but halted, should be accepted and the £270,000 put into use.”
In a statement issued in response, the union said it was “unfortunate” that the rebels had gone public with their views rather than working through the union’s “democratic” structures.
It said: “Of course training is a vital service the union makes available to members – that will continue to be the case. All training courses delivered by the NUJ are carried out by freelance trainers and paid for on a freelance basis – this will continue to be the case.
“Trade union training and professional training will still be available to members – only the method of administering the work will change.
“The reality is that the training department has incurred deficits over successive years. External funding has been generated, but this is for specific projects and is not income that can be spent on other union activities.
“It is of course unfortunate that the signatories of this report have chosen to seek to publicise their views, without first coming to the union for a formal response or going through the appropriate democratic structures.
“The Finance Committee will consider the alternative paper in detail at its September meeting, and members of the NEC, including the signatories to the statement, had the opportunity to express their views at the NEC’s meeting last month.”