Sunday, September 24, 2006

Time to talk about union democracy?

In common with some other members of UNISON’s National Executive Council, I circulate personal reports from meetings which I attend as an NEC member. Last week I circulated a report from the Development and Organisation Committee (I won’t post the whole thing up here, but if any UNISON member would like a copy just drop me an Email to my official UNISON address – j.rogers@unison.co.uk.

I was sad to receive one response to this latest report from a member to tell me that a number of members in his branch had changed unions because of disputes with officials. Of course, dissent and disagreement within trade unions is nothing new. However, finding fair and effective ways to handle disagreements is challenging, and we could clearly do better than we do at the moment.

I think we need to discuss once more the question of democracy and accountability within UNISON. In particular we need to consider whether we have got it right in having no elected officials beyond branch level other than the General Secretary. Activists in other unions – including AMICUS – have campaigned for the principle of electing union officials. Is it time for us to return to this debate in UNISON?

Of course, those who know any recent history of our Union will know that I am only too aware that elections can be lost as well as won…! But then that is democracy. I am going to suggest to the comrades on the union futures blog that we discuss this question further over there.

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