Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trouble at t'Committee...

I was very disappointed with the way in which this morning’s meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Council was handled. We had a number of good and constructive discussions – but there was more that we could have done. Had the meeting not been closed when it was I would have asked that we discuss how to support the TUC lobby of Parliament on 23 January, but also about support for those ripped off by Farepack.

I was pleased to be advised that the Regional Women’s Committee had pledged £500 to UNISON Welfare to help UNISON members let down by Farepack – but had the Regional Committee discussed this we could have doubled that (I hope the Regional Finance Team thought to do this later).

So why did the Regional Committee wind up early?

Well, there was a difficult discussion prompted by the Regional Secretary – backed by the Regional Convenor – advising the Regional Committee that a previous Committee decision was to be overturned by administrative decision (about which the Convenor refused to allow a vote!) The issue was around a couple of motions from the Haringey branch both of which concerned, in different ways, the imminent change of Prime Minister. The Regional Secretary had previously advised the Committee that these ought not to be discussed by the Regional Council, but should be referred to the Regional Labour Link Committee. The Regional Committee had, quite reasonably and properly, refused to accept this advice.

The Regional Secretary told the Committee that, following discussion with the General Secretary’s Office she was advising the Committee that their previous decision was outside the Rules and therefore had to be overturned. This, she said was a matter of application rather than interpretation of our Rules and could therefore be decided by paid officials rather than being referred to elected NEC members. The Committee was told (just before the Convenor refused to take a vote) that, had we disregarded this advice, the Regional Secretary had been instructed to withdraw all the staff from the Regional Council meeting.

Of course there is no requirement in Rule for paid staff to be present in order for a Regional Council meeting to transact business. However, the majority of the Regional Committee would almost certainly not have wanted to respond to such a confrontational approach in kind, so it is a shame that no democratic decision was permitted. It is inexplicable that the Regional Convenor and Secretary had not sought an interpretation of the Rules on this point in the appropriate way. Since that could easily have been done it almost appears that a difficult and unnecessary confrontation was sought – it is almost as if the left on the Regional Committee were being set up to get angry!

(Of course I am sure this was not the case, and – as it happens – the disappointed majority of the Regional Committee behaved with exemplary and impeccable courtesy in the face of what could so easily have been seen to have been deliberate provocation).

Underlying this dispute is the long standing difficulty which UNISON’s Rules have created for us by creating UNISON Labour Link as a quasi-autonomous part of our Union. There are those who will fight hard to maintain the freedom of the Labour Link from accountability to the wider Union.

I suppose they feel that the great success of UNISON Labour Link in (for example) preventing the privatisation of NHS Logistics and guaranteeing full protection for all members of the Local Government Pension Scheme justifies the vigour with which they defend the status quo in our union…

I am pleased to say that there were some far more constructive contributions made by speakers at the Regional Council, about which I shall report here when I have the chance.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

shocking stuff - what chances for the convenor being re-elected?