MEAA vote on move to appointed CEO tipped to be approved

The union representing journalists, musicians and actors is expected to vote in favour of a motion to scrap the current model of an elected federal secretary in favour of a new system which would see an elected management committee appoint a CEO to run the organisation.

Yesterday the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s (MEAA) Federal Council met to discuss the controversial proposal, which has caused significant debate in the union with opponents describing it as an attempt by those aligned with current federal secretary Chris Warren to retain power.

Sources have told Mumbrella that in a formal vote to be held this afternoon or tomorrow the actor’s equity section is tipped to vote as a block in favour of the move, while the crew and journalists factions of the Federal Council appear move evenly divided. The vote is seen as a key battle in the power struggle over who will lead the union following the announcement by Warren last month that he will step down.

Since his announcement Warren has strongly pushed a move to a CEO arguing that his role of federal secretary is not accountable to the union’s membership.

“The organisation has been on a long term process away from having elected officials and having employed staff who are answerable to elected journalists, performers or film makers. This has been a three year process and Federal Council will be looking at considering that.

“It has not been without controversy… once elected it is almost impossible to be unelected and you are not really answerable to people.”

Sydney Morning Herald morning news editor Marcus Strom had been tipped to become the next federal secretary following the news Warren would depart, and is now seen as one of the key advocates against the move to a CEO, which would remove the right of MEAA members to vote in an election for federal secretary of the union.

Allies of Strom are thought to be behind a website “MEAA needs democracy“, which calls on members to post comments of support calling for the right to elect the union leader.

Among those who have publicly pledged support are Adele Ferguson, Charles Firth, Dave Callan and Andy Nehl.

Louise Connor branch secretary of the MEAA in Victoria has also come out strongly against the proposal.

In a letter to members of the Victorian branch she wrote:

My concern is the corporate model isn’t the best for unions. Unions are political organisations. They don’t just represent members immediate industrial concerns; they – we – stand for a better, more egalitarian society; for workers’ and citizens’ rights; for a more vibrant and creative society and spaces for us to represent and re-create a more diverse view of the world.

The reality is we are having this debate now because we’ve been chopping and changing our shape for many years, primarily in response to looking at other unions’ structures as we’ve ‘kicked the tires’ looking for potential amalgamation partners. We’re looking at the CEO/board ‘corporate’ structure because we last looked at the professional engineers’ union and this is their model.

But is it the best model for us? I don’t think it is.

Strom declined to comment on the upcoming vote but last week expressed his concerns about the proposal to the ABC’s Media Report while Warren at the time of posting had not returned requests for comment.

Nic Christensen 

(Disclosure: Nic Christensen is a member of the MEAA) 


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