#MEAA Vote is counted. CEO Plan proponents victorious.

Hi supporters,

Thanks for following our blog for the last few frantic days.

Following a vote of Federal Council this afternoon, the proponents of the CEO plan have won the day. The vote was carried 68 to 24, carried with strong support from the Equity section.

Congratulations to our opponents who have fought a decisive campaign, and who generously welcomed our debate.

We appreciate those of you who publicly commented, and took part in our campaign against this change.


Greg, John, Charles, and Jeff


Mark Skulley: Our sense of belonging will go under #MEAA CEO

I write as yet another Fairfax vet who is now freelancing in the all-bets-are-off digital era. I’ve been forced to dust off my CV and LinkedIn entry, which has reminded me that I joined the old Australian Journalists Association way back in 1978.

Not that I’m blowing my own bugle about career longevity. Indeed, many employers seem polite but doubtful when they consider my timeline, perhaps pondering whether I need an ear trumpet or similar prosthetics.

No, I mention the date because I joined the old AJA straight after talking my way into a job on a bush newspaper in Western Australia. It was a start, even though I wasn’t a reporter’s bootlace for some years. Getting my union card was a welcome moment because it made me feel that I was part of the industry (as well as part of the tribe).

My most recent reporting gig was covering the national IR round for the Fin Review for the last decade. I saw some amalgamated unions struggle to march in step, while others worked better. At the same time, the media industry’s old business models were smashed, putting pressure on the MEAA and a large part of its membership.

As a former long-term Luddite, I’ve had to work hard to update my own skills and recognize the need to reshape the MEAA. And I respect people who are arguing in support of the plans to have an appointed CEO, rather than a national secretary who is elected by the membership.

However, I strongly disagree with both the proposal and the way it is being pursued. I believe that the election of the union’s most important officeholder by members is vital for its future.

The 10 reasons given for supporting the changes include the argument that the MEAA would not be alone in having the CEO model. Yes, the CEO model is used at Professionals Australia, which was formerly the Association of Professionals Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia (APESMA).
But how many other Australian unions have a CEO model? Why is the MEAA switching to this model when the overwhelming majority of Australian unions are sticking to elected leaders?

It is argued that MEAA members will “remain a union run by members, for members” and that “under this democratic accountable model, members will be doing plenty of voting.”

Plenty of voting, yes. But it is Orwellian to argue that a model is democratic and accountable when members can vote on everything, apart from the most important position.

On one hand it’s claim that “appointed staff are more democratically accountable”.

But the argument is then put that the CEO will be accountable to the elected board and can be removed if members are dissatisfied.

Exactly. My concern is that the primary power relationship of the CEO would be with the board, and not with union members.

I also disagree with the case for change put by my former Fairfax colleagues, Stuart Washington and Gina McColl. They have argued: “A union that is balkanised by competing elected officials cannot provide the protections necessary to the broad cross section of members we now serve. It wastes energy better expended in furthering members’ industrial and professional interests.”

“That is why we no longer have elected assistant federal secretaries – because federal council recognised their electoral duties were in conflict with their pastoral duties. And federal management committee believes that argument extends to the federal secretary’s role.”

Yes, internal infighting is mostly a waste of time, energy and money. Yes, the needs of the MEAA’s different divisions need to be met and not squabbled over endlessly. But discussion and even disagreement should be encouraged, and not seen as a bad thing.

Unions do best when their members have a sense of engagement, of ownership. I believe that sense of belonging will be weakened, not strengthened, by switching to a CEO who is appointed and not elected.

John Roper: What #MEAA needs is a plebiscite

John Roper is a writer and editor with Pacific Magazines, who says he would welcome a plebiscite over changing to a corporate model.

I’ve been a member of the MEAA for nearly 15 years. Over the years, I’ve watched as the internet and social media have utterly transformed my industry. Over the years, I’ve watched as companies and my co-workers have struggled to come to terms with this once in a generation transformation. And sadly, over the years, I’ve watched as my beloved union has adopted a position similar to King Canute and tried to stop the tidal wave of change.

As a workplace organiser, I’ve fought hard over the years to ensure the rights of my fellow workers were defended and improved, but sometimes it felt as if this fight was just being fought by my workplace alone. Yes, when an EBA was being brokered, union officers were on hand, offering advise, navigating negotiations, revving up the membership – doing the bread and butter stuff unions are supposed to do.

However, outside of these “all hands to the pump” times, members in my workplace have complained that they have felt that the union has forgotten them. They have trouble finding out what’s happening within their union; what’s the union’s long-term plan for them during these troubling times; and, ultimately, they feel alienated from their union’s decision-making processes.

At the moment, as grassroots member, I, personally, don’t really feel I have a say in the running of our union anymore. Why is that? Well, I believe there is a distinct lack of public information about how our union works. Where are the reliable, detailed minutes of the various union committees and leadership groups published on our union’s website? Where are the insights from our union leaders on how we can tackle the fundamental forces transforming our industry? These are just two of many points, yet, as far as I can see, the only regular communication we get from head office is a weekly news e-bulletin of limited import. I’d also love to know what other members in other sections of our union are doing, and what innovative ideas and policies they might be developing. It is a damning indictment of our union that we represent all forms of the communicative arts, but prove to be one of the worst communicators when it comes to our own membership.

But lately I’ve heard of the plan to do away with the process of electing the federal secretary. I fear that this move will take our union down a path of being less open, transparent and accountable. For the first time in many, many years, our union has the opportunity to engage and empower its membership by giving them the chance to elect a new federal secretary. And, if the federal council chooses to opt for a CEO model, what risks do our union face down the years? I urge you to contact the union to find out who are the people that will represent you. Otherwise, the federal management committee can turn its back on an already disillusioned membership and take its members’ voice – and votes – away.

But what is incomprehensible to me is the way these changes have been announced. Allegedly, these mooted rule changes have been doing the rounds for two years, yet the majority of the union’s membership are ignorant of what is being debated at federal council this weekend. Where was the consultation with members? Where was mail out/e-bulletin explaining the proposed changes? Why did discussions with local house committees not take place?

No matter how you slice or dice this, if this vote gets up, it will fundamentally change in the way our union is run, and not in a good way. What is clearly needed, no matter what the outcome, is a plebiscite of grassroots members to endorse the proposed changes. It’s the bare minimum that a democratically elected board should put to its membership when it comes to deciding the future of our union. Otherwise, what does membership really mean if the people – who fund and support MEAA – have no real say on who runs the union.

John Roper – Workplace organiser

Pacific Magazines

@strom_m: the open letter #MEAA tried to hide

This is a letter from NSW honorary secretary, Marcus Strom, that Chris Warren and the management committee declined to send out to MEAA members in NSW.

We aren’t sure how this sits with the proposed CEO push, which supposedly is about “empowering honorary officials”, when the NSW honorary secretary isn’t allowed to communicate with the very constituency to which he is supposedly accountable.

We are publishing the letter for you here:

———- Forwarded message ———-

MEAA needs Democracy

A message from NSW Branch Secretary, Marcus Strom

Dear friends,

Next week the federal council of MEAA will consider two proposals for the future of our union. I believe one is about far-reaching democracy and re-engagement with our members. I fear the other corporatised push will distance our union from the very people it is meant to serve: you, the members.

You can hear me discuss these matters with Richard Aedy on Radio National’s Media Report here, recorded Thursday: http://ab.co/Nba9qW

Our industries and crafts are changing and we must change with them. But the bedrock of that change must be members’ involvement and democratic accountability.

With our long-serving federal secretary stepping down at the end of his current term, I believe members will want a direct say in who will next lead the union. I don’t think members will want a committee of 10 people to make this decision for them.

It is vital we rebuild a collective leadership for our union. That’s why proposals I am taking to federal council will not only give you a choice about who is our next federal secretary, but establish an elected assistant federal secretary each for Equity, Media and Crew, elected by the section members. I believe that you, the members, should make those decisions.

Those four elected national officials will work with our 10 elected honorary officials to rebuild a collective, transparent and accountable leadership.

And to improve financial transparency, I am also proposing that one of the honorary officials become our federal treasurer, with oversight and audit responsibilities.

I believe in member-run organisations. I don’t believe that elected officials mean we have a smaller gene pool from which to choose our leaders. If we want to have officials from outside our 16,000-strong membership, there is nothing to stop us choosing the best people. I just think they should be elected to their roles by you.

The debate and vote at federal council will be close. I hope that we retain direct election for our national leaders. However, if a majority of federal councillors want to remove your right to elect those officials, I think that decision should be yours to make through a plebiscite that either endorses or rejects instituting an unelected CEO.

This is an exciting and positive time for our union and we have a lot to learn from each other. The professional community built around Equity is an inspiring model for an increasingly fragmented media landscape. Our Entertainment, Crew and Sport section is setting high standards in recruitment and executing its strategic plan. Media is embracing positive change with its Women in Media program and a long overdue outreach to our freelance community. And I’m thrilled at gains being made in developing our musicians’ section.

I think members should see all proposals before federal council. Below are links to the management committee’s corporate CEO push and to proposals I will be making that I believe are about membership engagement, democracy, power and growth.

Link through to my proposals here: http://bit.ly/1iyt7GR

Link through to the CEO proposals here: http://bit.ly/1cS2Kng

Ultimately, the future of our union is in your hands. I trust your representatives will have you in mind when they decide next week.

In unity,

Marcus Strom

Marcus Strom is the honorary NSW Branch Secretary of the
Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance


The 90 people who will decide the fate of MEAA

AJA 1921-22

The men and men of the AJA’s WA branch, 1921-22. Their legacy is in your hands.

by Charles Firth

This Saturday, the 90 members of the Federal Council of MEAA will hold its annual conference. At that conference, they will be asked to vote on a proposal to abolish the ability for members to directly elect their Federal Secretary and replace it with a “CEO” figure, appointed by the Federal Management Committee, a body of 11 elected representatives.

The main argument in favour of this reform is that having an appointed CEO will make it easier to sack them.

This is certainly an important principle. For over two decades, MEAA has been headed by the same person. Clearly there is a strong desire by everyone to make sure something like that never happens again.

But while placing the decision about who leads the union may sound good in theory, in practice the reverse is true. This type of structure was popular amongst white collar unions (such as what is now the NTEU) in the early 1980s.

These unions ended up having a terrible time getting rid of their Chief Executives because those people were very good at organising and controlling their boards.

They found that over time, an effective CEO will organise their board (in this case the FMC) and ensure the people on it support their CEO.

Clearly MEAA is in need of reform. But something like term limits would be a much more appropriate way to ensure renewal at the top. Along the way, we could also reform things that seem to be more urgent but are not even on the agenda this weekend. This could include a ban on “election” funds for union leaders.

At the very least, reform of this magnitude should be decided by a plebiscite of all the members, or at least after a new election where this issue has been properly debated. Nobody who ran for Federal Council ran on this issue, to make a change of this magnitude without going back to the members first will only undermine the legitimacy of this union.

Below is a list of the 90 or so people who hold the fate of your union in their hands. I’ve noted whether they’re for or against direct elections of the Federal Secretary, based on their public statements.

If you know any of them, please ring them and make sure they know that you want them to vote in favour of directly electing a Federal Secretary.

Also, if you happen to be one of these people, please let us know how you intend to vote, and I’ll update the list to reflect that.

National Office

  • Stuart Washington – federal president (Media) – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Philippa McDonald – federal vice president (Media) – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Gina McColl – federal vice president (Media) – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Simon Burke – federal president (Equity) – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Corinne Grant – federal vice president (Equity) – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Monica Main – federal vice president (Equity)
  • John West – federal president (ECS) – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Jacob Holmes – federal vice president (ECS)
  • Simon Collins – federal president (Musicians)
  • Patricia Amphlett – federal president
  • Chris Warren – federal secretary – against direct election of Federal Secretary

NSW Branch

Media division

  • Greg Miskelly – branch president – in favour of direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Jane Worthington – branch vice president
  • Marcus Strom – branch secretary – in favour of direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Amy Corderoy – in favour of direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Lindsay Foyle
  • Alan Kennedy – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Seumas Phelan – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Peter Ryan
  • Jenny Tarran
  • Leigh Tonkin
  • David Higgins
  • Narelle Hooper

Equity division

  • Tina Bursill – branch president
  • Chloe Dallimore – branch vice president
  • Roy Billing
  • Amanda Bishop
  • Mitchell Butel
  • Helen Dallimore
  • Matt Day
  • Glenn Hazeldine
  • Verity Hunt-Ballard
  • Robert Jago
  • Lorna Lesley
  • Jonathan Mill – against direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Gus Murray
  • Geoff Morrell
  • Fiona Press
  • Eamon Farren (permanent alternate)

ECS Division

  • David Turnbull – branch president
  • Milojka Garovic – branch vice president
  • Will Gregory
  • Scott Smith
  • Arthur Spink


  • Leon Gaer – branch president
  • Darren Heinrich

Victorian Branch


  • Ben Butler – branch vice president
  • Jane Canaway
  • Wayne Flower
  • Dennis Manktelow
  • Alana Schetzer – in favour of direct election of Federal Secretary
  • Jeff Waters – in favour of direct election of Federal Secretary


  • Abbe Holmes – branch president
  • Bert Labonte – branch vice president
  • Robyn Arthur
  • Alan Fletcher
  • Liam McIlwain


  • Susan Marriott – branch vice-president
  • David Haidon
  • Pat Shaw


  • Tania Hardy-Smith

Elected Official

  • Louise Connor – branch secretary – in favour of direct election of Federal Secretary



  • Terry O’Connor – branch president
  • Leo Bowman – branch vice-president
  • Trevor Hockins
  • Emily MacDonald
  • Quentin Dempster
  • Kathy McLeish
  • Joshua Robertson


  • Carol Burns – acting branch president
  • Kerith Atkinson – branch vice president
  • Jason Klarwein


  • Luke Stone – branch president



  • Samela Harris – branch president
  • Kirsty Nancarrow
  • Tim Lloyd


  • Patrick Frost – branch president
  • Elizabeth Hay

Elected Officials

  • Ashley Knight – branch president
  • Angelique Ivanica – branch secretary



  • Martin Turner – branch president
  • Victoria Laurie – branch vice president
  • Martin Saxon
  • Emma Wynne


  • Stuart Halusz – branch president


  • Matthew Nankivell – branch president


  • Cameron Brook – branch president


  • A. Mark Thomas – branch president
  • Angela Rattray


  • Don Cumming – branch president
  • Michael White – branch secretary


  • Michael White – branch secretary

It’s important that in rushing to solve one problem, MEAA doesn’t create even more headaches for itself. This is an important decision, worthy of proper debate. Let’s not rush to implement an old model that hasn’t worked in the past.

@FranMolloy: Freelance Journos say #Meaaneedsdemocracy

This is a open letter in response to the people who ‘can’t stand still’  Federal Council media reps – Gina McColl, Stuart Washington and Philippa McDonald. The author Fran Molloy co-ordinates Freeline.net.au, an online network of Australian freelance writers, and is a long-time union member.

From: Fran Molloy
Date: 7 March 2014 17:44
Subject: Re: A message from Stuart Washington, Gina McColl & Philippa McDonald
To: MEAA Federal Management Committee <fmc@alliance.org.au>
Cc: Freeline Sydney <freeline-sydney@googlegroups.com>

Hi there, Gina, Stuart and Philippa,

I am disappointed that MEAA Media members hear about this move from you, without the prospect of making any contribution to the decision.

Why are members not being asked to vote on a proposal that essentially takes away their right to vote for the Federal Secretary?

This move will reduce the ability for members to have a say. Yet it seems the members so affected, have no prospect of contribution to the decision.

As a freelance journalist, I have never had the opportunity to vote for a person to represent the interests of freelancers on Federal Council.

We have no branch, no structure and no formal representation. Several Federal Council members are indeed freelancers – but they were not elected to represent freelancers, nor can they, as there are few avenues in place for basic representation; it’s all very ad-hoc. I am happy to speak to you at any time to give some examples. Jane Canaway, a hard-working Federal Councillor, can also explain the issues she faces in helping freelancers achieve visibility and support. The structures are not there to sustain this.

I understand that you all give up your time voluntarily to the roles you perform and I do appreciate the significant effort that you make on behalf of members. However, I note that all of you work for large, mainstream media organisations and therefore represent members who have similar industrial issues.

For the last decade or so, I have worked with a number of freelance journalists to attend meetings and discussions with various representatives with the aim of putting in place better representation for our colleagues – so far, very little has come of this. I have minutes of meetings which I am very happy to forward to you, where the current Federal Secretary promised various actions including the setup of better freelance representation, to no avail.

For the first time in decades, there is the real prospect of a new Federal Secretary who may actually act on these promises. However it seems this may be stymied by a proposal to replace this role with a non-elected position.

I believe there are over 1,000 freelance journalist members of the MEAA; at present, they are very poorly represented by their union in my opinion – even though the future of journalism is very likely to weight more heavily towards freelance than ever.

We do indeed need to be fleet of foot, and embrace change. A new Federal Secretary to replace a person who has held the role for many many years will deliver that change. And at the same time, this position will be an elected role, not an appointment lacking accountability to the members.

I urge you to reconsider this decision.


Fran Molloy
co-ordinator of ‘Freeline’ group of freelance journalists

Want to have your say on social media? Why not visit: https://www.facebook.com/MEAAneedsdemocracy

Or hashtag #MEAA on twitter?

Federal Management Committee in Response to #meaaneedsdemocracy

John West, President of Crew section “Standing still is not an option” – says CEO is the go.

Stuart Washington, Gina McColl, President and Vice President, Media section “Standing still is not an option” – say CEO is the go

Simon BurkeSimon Burke, Equity President, “a vital positive move in reshaping our union” – says CEO is the go

We will post links to other responses if and when they appear, the full list of elected officials is hereList of voting Federal officers, 2014

Jeff Waters: No free speech but plenty of secrecy at the #MEAA

A week ago, Charles Firth, Greg Miskelly, John Roper and I started this blog, because we were worried about a proposal to end to full democracy in our union – an effort which could easily lead to even more secrecy.

The most concerning part is the proposal to introduce a CEO model to the way our union is run.

It’s difficult to find out much about this plan, in spite of the fact two of us are elected councillors on the union. We are being blocked from communicating with the rest of the MEAA’s federal council. For a democratic organisation, MEAA is often opaque in its communications with members.

For example, in order to gauge the view of members, I was even told by the union officials that as a Federal Councillor I could not have access to a mailing list of my fellow councillors, for privacy reasons. Federal secretary Chris Warren, though answerable to the federal council, simply ignores my emails and calls.

As a democratically elected rep, it seems I am not trusted to communicate with my fellow reps. All communication must go through head office.

However that same list is now being used by the proponents of the plan to wheel out propaganda on their side of the debate. No free debate; no free speech, and in the alliance of all unions.

After our blog started to get traction, and thanks to coverage from independent media outlets like Crikey and Mumbrella, some emails, and press releases were released to some members through the MEAA website.

We’ve heard now reasoning from national officials Stuart Washington, Philippa Mcdonald, Gina McColl and Simon Burke as to why they are recommending this plan. Words like ‘forward-thinking’ and ‘being modern’ are used to explain why your vote is being traded away.

Another argument made is that not having elected officials, who are accountable to members is an easier way to end arguments between factions and ‘get things done’. That’s fine, if you running a club, or a corporation.

Democracies aren’t meant to be easy, in fact, they are designed to foster debate, testing of ideas and deep discussion. The aim of that is to lead to strong collective decision making, inducing responsible outcomes and the betterment of the group. Today it seems some within MEAA want to outsource the decision making, the responsibility for its outcomes, and the hopes and dreams of its members, for reasons not fully explained.

This new model doesn’t change the secrecy, and lack of consultation within the top level of MEAA. It simply puts the scrutiny of a highly paid, corporate leader in the hands of elected volunteers – all working journalists, actors, crew and musicians.

It’s true that a CEO would have to deal with the sometimes bitter factionalism and feuding that plagues volunteer organisations, but in this model, this happens without the bolster of a democratic mandate. There would likely be no recourse for the wider membership to remove such a person from the role if things went wrong. It’s a game of Russian roulette, with extra bullets.

What is being proposed is fraught with unknown dangers. We don’t know who the CEO will be. We haven’t been told how the CEO will be appointed by the ten member panel. Ten members out of 16,000. We don’t really know much about who the people are who will choose him. Apparently a model has been fully developed within the management committee. A nice model, presumably from nice people. It would be nice to see something published online by the architects of the scheme about the detail that they have worked out. We’re calling for that here on this blog, and were publishing all sides of the debate. But in truth we shouldn’t have to be.

A lack of consultation is nothing new from MEAAs mostly voluntary political officers. While excellent individuals, programs and projects abound across all areas of MEAA, it seems a ‘closed door’ mentality exists deep in the leadership structures.

Volunteer officials seemingly have had a ‘rubber stamp’ approach, where discussion and debate has been shunned in order to get on with daily business. Minutes of meetings, updates, and election notices are rarely, if ever published directly to the members. Where they are published, the detail and debate is usually lacking.

When complaints are raised they are ignored, or ‘people being busy’ is to blame. Last year Federal Council promised to consult with members about reforms. That hasn’t happened in time.

Today we want to know if members of the management committee are willing to answer the following questions:

1. Are any members of the management committee – committed to fill elected roles – planning to apply for the job of CEO, or, for that matter, the Walkley Foundation, which the current committee has been trying to separate from the union?

2. Are their conflict of interest procedures in place, to ensure that those who do nominate for CEO, step down from their elected positions prior to the position being designed, advertised and recruited

3. What sort of capabilities are expected of the CEO candidates – top level experience in unions, business or NGOs? Financial expertise? Tertiary qualifications? Experience in running industrial campaigns? Political lobbying? Legal skills?

4. Is there a large pool of candidates – or is it expected to be fairly small? Perhaps, again, including members of the management committee?

5. Is it expected that outside head-hunters, such as ‘executive recruiting agencies’ will be employed – at huge expense to members?

6. Have experts from outside the union – eg lawyers, corporate governance analysts etc, provided independent advice on the feasibility and governance aspects of the model?

7. What sort of remuneration will be offered to the role? Will pay and conditions be negotiated as part of the selection process? Will bonuses and incentives be on offer for the CEO to remain in the role? Will relocation, travel and other expenses be funded by the union?

8. Will the CEO’s role be modelled on that of the current federal secretary – with wide ranging political powers to participate in decision making bodies of the union, and, indeed, the power to influence nominations to the management committee itself? If not, what checks and balances will be in place to ensure that the CEO position does not become political and remains answerable to the board?

9. What sort of performance management plan has been devised for the CEO? Which members of the ten-member panel have direct oversight of performance management?

10. What are the KPI’s for the CEO – such as financial management, mba, industrial experience, media spokesperson experience, experience within creative industries? Is it expected that the candidates will have prior knowledge and familiarity with the policy areas and industries MEAA works in. Will membership growth, or industrial outcomes be part of the measurement of job performance?

11. What sort of background checks will be conducted on the CEO prior to appointment?

12. Will the CEO have to become a member of the union?

13. What duration of contract would the CEO fulfil – 12 months, 2 years, 4 years? Would they be subject to annual reviews?

14. What dismissal mechanisms are in place – given the difficulty boards often face removing CEO’s when contracts are terminated early?

15.  Has the management committee costed the recruitment process in full – search, advertising, convening to interview, legal advice, fees, etc – compared to the cost of election (which is funded by Fair Work Australia – not the unions)

16. Why haven’t the detailed figures and costs been released?

17. How will the CEO report back to members – directly through written reports, as the current federal secretary does to federal council, or via the management committee (which, in my experience as a member of the union’s “supreme governing body” is extraordinarily quiet)?

18. Will Chris Warren remain as CEO of the Walkleys Foundation, in effect meaning MEAA funds two CEO positions? Should a new CEO take over running of the Walkleys Foundation?

19. What are the actual direct advantages to members of a CEO?

20. Has the management committee conducted any independent review of its own governance arrangements – given the volunteer status of its members – as to the efficacy of its own oversight of a non-elected CEO.


In the current political climate it’s more important than ever that this union moves toward more democracy and more transparent accountability – not less.

I appeal to all federal councillors – particularly those who may have been swayed by some management committee members – to think long and hard about how closed a little club our union could become.

And I urge all members to make your feelings on this matter known to your delegates, organisers, and, most importantly, the federal councillors who will be voting on this next week.

Jeff Waters

Melbourne ABC delegate to Federal Council

Who is voting and who is not…

A number of councillors have made it clear, they support the plan to directly appoint a CEO. Fair enough, if you agree they’ve consulted widely and that members who want to vote directly for their leader are the minority.

Simon Burke, from Equity has posted a statement:Email From Simon Burke

More views are buried in an anonymous statement, on MEAAs website, or the ten points here here, reproduced in full for your convenience:



Ten reasons why having a CEO is better for our union (and more democratic at the same time)

Thursday, 06 March 2014

1. Let’s lead not follow.

Being a modern, dynamic organisation means having a modern, 21st century approach to how we operate. The current model is an anachronism. This method of election goes back to a time when it was expected that the union could be run by a working member – known to all the other members – who gave up his or her job and took over the administration of the union.

2. The future of the MEAA remains in your hands

The move to this model has come through a long process of consultation with federal council and members over three years. Any change brings uncertainty. But your board and elected leaders have thought long about this and believe this is the best path for MEAA.

That’s why they are recommending the change to the people you elected just 12 months ago.

You elect the 92 working creative professionals who form our federal council; performers, journalists, dancers, technicians, musicians, outdoor and event staff and all the other creative workers who are part of our union. They will be voting on this – as they do every single big decision the union makes. See them here.

You also elect the president and vice-president of your section who make up the board of the union.

3. We’ve got a better chance to get the best person for the job

It may be a MEAA member. It may not. Using a rigorous, transparent selection based on merit is the best way to get the best candidates – and to get more than one candidate. A merit-based selection procedure will let us cast the net as widely as possible when a selection is being made. Yet the electoral process prevents the union from going to the labour market in order to attract the very best person for the job. Only those who are able to join the union before nominations close and be willing to go through a public electoral process can be considered for the job. In fact, in the past 20 years, just about every elected employed officer was a previous employee of MEAA. They’ve been great. But that’s too small a gene pool for the future.

4. The federal secretary or chief executive doesn’t lead the union. You do.

It’s the rank and file members, the local committees, the union presidents, the federal councillors who run this union. The people on the ground who know the issues affecting your industry. A chief executive – and all our valuable staff – answer to you and work in your interests, always.

5. Successful organisations are built on values, not leadership.

In membership organisations around the world – unions or not – the successful ones that are growing are built on values not leadership. And one of our central democratic values is that it should be the working creative professionals that are in charge.

6. We need a comprehensive mix of skills.

The skills someone needs to win an election are not necessarily the skills we need to manage our resources. MEAA is a relatively large, complex organisation. It turns over about $10 million a year and employs about 70 staff in two countries and every state (and the ACT) in Australia. To be CEO of our organisation, we need a broad range of skills – handling money, leading staff, managing the structures of the union, reporting to regulatory bodies – before we get on to the big issues of strategic planning and leadership, campaigning, negotiating, lobbying etc etc.

7. We’re not alone

Forward thinking unions and other membership organisations have already recognised bureaucracy and popularity contests can get in the way of working in members’ interests. Professionals Australia – the Australian union most like us – has long had a CEO who is answerable to a board of working professionals. The most successful performers’ union, the Screen Actors Guild in the US, appoints a CEO answerable to their (often very robustly) elected board.

8. Appointed staff are more democratically accountable

People naturally vote for people they know. In a union as diverse as ours it is inevitable that a member of particular background, such as performance or journalism, will be very well-known to one section of our membership – and therefore possibly succeed in an election – yet be relatively unknown to many other members and unfamiliar with their industries and their needs.

The power of incumbency also means once elected, officers stay as long as they like. In 20 years, only once have we genuinely had a choice of more than one person for ANY elected employed officer.

An appointed CEO is accountable to an elected board and charged to deliver the plans members want – and can be removed if they don’t.

9. You’ll still be doing plenty of voting

As always, MEAA will remain a union run by members, for members.

Under this democratic accountable model, members will be doing plenty of voting.

You’ll be able to vote for your local deputy, delegate or House Committee. You’ll also be able to vote for volunteers who serve as honorary officers in each state. You’ll vote for national members of the committee of your craft or section – the National Performers Committee, the Media National Section Committee or the Entertainment Crew and Sport Committee. And you’ll vote for the president and vice president of your section.

You’ll also get the chance to vote on everything that affects your working life – you’ll vote on a logs of claim when you’re bargaining. You’ll vote on accepting (or not accepting) a collective agreement under which you’ll work. You’ll vote before taking any industrial action.

10. We’ve asked members what they think

In a union-wide survey conducted by a third party just last year MEAA members told us that, most importantly, they want us to be “forward-thinking” and “the trusted voice”. They also told us they want us to be “authoritative”, “dependable”, “people focused” and “service focused”. We listened. To this feedback. To our hundreds of activists. To the committee members you elected.

The consultation process has been long and extensive. Our strategy for the future is, like everything we do, driven by members.

Modernising the way we are governed is just one of the many ways in which we are trying to shake things up – for the better. The way we communicate, the way we use technology, the way we grow in non-traditional workplaces, the way we do more with less, the way we restructure our resources are all going to get a much-needed overhaul and every member of MEAA is going to reap the benefits.

The consultation process has been long and extensive. Our strategy for the future is, like everything we do, driven by members.