ONE of the most popular officials in the National Union of Journalists is stepping down, after 20 years working for the Scottish division of the union.
Angela Austin is leaving today as assistant organiser in Scotland where, latterly, she has been developing the union’s skills training programme.
She began as PA to a former Scottish Organiser, the late Mike Smith, and was immediately flung into the front line when Mike took seriously ill.
When the union’s Scottish Council decided to do the work of the Scottish Organiser, instead of bringing in support from south of the border, she had to co-ordinate pay talks and arrange individual representation for chapels and members for around two years before Mike’s replacement was appointed.
Says NUJ Scottish Organiser, Paul Holleran, who was chair of the Council back then: “These were difficult times as companies were taking advantage of the Tory legislation and de-recognising us almost everywhere.
“Angela organised the union, ensuring senior activists were able to cover representation and make sure the chapels and branches were supported in their daily work and in pay talks and de-recognition battles.
“She seemed to know every journalist in Scotland, recruited hundreds into the NUJ and was extremely popular, especially with the male members for some reason. Angela was the role model that we used, for the creation of the post of assistant organiser which has proven so successful across the union.
“She developed an expertise in chasing debts and negotiating settlements in hundreds of freelance cases without resorting to lawyers, with all the delays and costs associated with that approach. She is a very capable professional and could never be replaced in respect to her style of working. We will have to adapt the way we do things in future.”
Holleran and Austin are now partners.
Austin was behind the setting up of innovative online training which includes English for Journalists and practical courses such as subbing in QuarkXpress and Indesign.
Her success was recognised by the STUC and the Scottish Parliament as she took up a position on the Scottish Parliament’s Lifelong Learning Committee and helped play a part in the ongoing development of the Scottish Union Learning Fund project.
She is moving on from the NUJ as part of a restructuring process which saw, five months ago, the departure of Jim McNally, as assistant organiser, from the Scottish Office. Both Jim and Angela will be replaced by Fiona Davidson for the next six months who is working on a short-term contract while she completes a post-graduate diploma in law. She previously worked as a freelance journalist, reporting employment tribunals.