Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Unison decides on TUC amendments

UNISON’s TUC delegation meeting today agreed two amendments for submission to the annual meeting of the TUC in September – not including the amendment calling for an amnesty for so-called “illegal” migrant workers, which I proposed without success.

The successful amendments dealt with the dispute over the Local Government Pension Scheme and the marketisation of education. The latter amendment was not in fact available in writing before – or indeed at - the meeting, but a large majority of the delegation nevertheless felt that this was a higher priority than an amnesty for migrant workers.

The decisive argument against the amnesty proposal was probably that we could not be certain of winning the majority of votes at the Trade Union Congress. This view was put by General Secretary, Dave Prentis, who said that he could not guarantee that we would win our position at the TUC. It was reported that, based on discussions at the Scottish TUC, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), who are the movers of the motion we would have amended, would not have supported our amendment, which would therefore have been forced to a vote. Jane Carolan, Chair of UNISON’s Policy Committee, said that we did not need to confront our friends on this issue at a time when TUC policy was “inching forwards”.

In the event, the delegation meeting of 63 voting delegates voted to put in amendments on the LGPS (56 votes) and the marketisation of education (48 votes) and not the amnesty for migrant workers (10 votes). Whilst I appreciate the importance of the two issues upon which we have put amendments, I am disappointed that UNISON – for the second year in a row – has failed to put our own policy on migrant workers before the TUC.

I think that we should be more confident that a policy supported by UNISON and the TGWU could win at Congress. This is not like the debates about the Euro. There are no unions who are militantly opposed to our position, as there were over Europe. There may be unions who are less enthusiastic about the issue – but we have the largest and third largest affiliates in support of an amnesty for so-called “illegal” migrants (and the second largest affiliate is looking to merge with the third largest…) Add in the votes of the leftwing unions whose delegations could be expected to come down on the right (left) side of the argument and we could have TUC policy in line with the views of UNISON and the TGWU. This could help to build pressure on the Government to adopt a sensible and progressive approach, rather than pandering to the reactionary politics of the tabloid press.

Several speakers at the delegation meeting said that now was not the right time perhaps next year would be the right time to press this demand. I think that there is no time like the present – but if UNISON members re-elect me to the NEC I will remind those who said that this time next year! Mind you, I think some of them may have said the same thing last year… :(

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