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IF, ON March 11 2020 when the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic you had told me we would have to not just cancel that year’s annual general meeting of the People’s Press Printing Society, but seriously delay the next year’s, I would not have believed you.
Trying to second guess the behaviour of a government that has played Covid like a game in a casino was not something the management committee was prepared to do and safety has always been foremost in our mind.
The pandemic is an experience none of us has ever had before and I believe your management committee’s decision to not go ahead with the usual cross-country AGM tour in 2020 was the right one.
Our members and our staff’s safety were paramount in our minds and the rules under which we have had to live would not tolerate a 1,000+ mile car journey across this island, with friends and comrades catching up and socialising in the way we are accustomed to.
I have to say as well, although it is a very tiring experience it is one I have really missed. Nothing will please me more than when we can all celebrate together and discuss the business of our paper.
We recognise that we are more than just readers and our coming together is important. We need to celebrate our staff for a start. We faced a challenge on a par with the previous office fire to keep the paper published. To go from working in William Rust House to producing the paper from home for more than a year has been an awesome achievement.
We need to thank and give respect to all our members who stood by us throughout that time and saved the paper when sales dropped and advertising dried up as union conferences were cancelled. We need to come together and refresh our hope and commitment to socialism and the role of the Morning Star in the movement.
We also considered moving to a digital AGM as other organisations have done. However the management committee felt that many of our longstanding members do not use digital technology and would therefore be excluded.
While appreciating travelling long distances may also pose problems, it was felt our limited resources would be really stretched ensuring an online meeting could be managed properly in terms of members-only registration and the counting of votes, as well as accommodating all potential speakers.
Our desire to meet in person means the management committee is currently looking at holding an AGM in Birmingham on October 2. It would only be the one this year and it does not signal any intention to move away from Scotland or Wales AGMs in 2022.
It would allow us to fulfil our legal obligations but it will only be if conditions are right, the law allows it and we get a fully suitable venue. But we hope it will be an opportunity to come together and honour not only those who we have lost, but those who have achieved above and beyond despite Covid, our staff and among our readers and supporters.
I hope you understand and recognise why the management committee has taken this decision and why during lockdown we cancelled the previous AGM. As long as it is safe and we are allowed to do so, I hope to be able to welcome you to an AGM in October and join us in celebration of, yet again, the survival of our daily miracle.
Bob Oram is chair of the People’s Press Printing Society.
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