Death of democracy at the MEAA?
After 15 years at the helm of the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance, federal secretary Chris Warren recently announced he won't contest the next election for the role, due next year. But it appears the union -- which represents journalists, actors and musicians -- may not hold an election at all.
At a meeting on March 17 and 18, union delegates will vote on a proposal to turn the federal secretary position into an appointed CEO role. This has aroused concerns amoung some of the MEAA's membership. On a website launched yesterday
, Jeff Waters and Greg Miskelly from the ABC, along with Charles Firth of Chaser
fame and Pacific Magazine’s John Roper, raise their concerns about the plan, which would have the union's management committee appoint an unelected CEO to run the union. "It will mean you, the people who fund and support MEAA, will have no real say on who runs your union," they write.
The four journalists, all MEAA members, call on the MEAA to publish the full details of their CEO model online, and call on journalists to add their support to the page, "so that your federal councilors know that members want them to vote for democracy, and a direct say in who runs our union".
MEAA chief Chris Warren confirmed to Crikey
that the issue would go to a vote, saying the union had over a number of years moved to phase out the number of directly elected employees. "We've moved from at one stage having 20 elected employees to just a handful," he said.
Warren argues that the direct appointment of a CEO will make the MEAA more accountable to its members, as well as more transparent and efficient. "We believe the union is most democratic when its led by people working in the industry. That means when you have elected officials who increasingly come from outside the industry, then you undermine the power of activists and working journalists, performers and musicians." An appointed head would answer directly to the union's delegates, giving them more power, Warren said, adding that appointment would allow the union to attract the best person for the job.
Asked about how he would respond to the concerns raised by the journalists, Warren said he welcomed people discussing the issue. "It's been a long-running debate within our union," he said. -- Myriam Robin (disclosure: the author is Private Media's union delegate)
Slave headlines in poor taste. First The Australian made this awful faux pas on its website on Oscar afternoon ...