Saturday, February 24, 2007

Special Local Government Conference - what shall we do?

I blogged the other day about the publication of the agenda for the forthcoming Special UNISON Local Government Conference on the LGPS dispute.

As I observed this agenda is likely to be overtaken at least to some extent by further Emergency Motions, particularly following the Service Group Executive meeting on Tuesday.

Since the SGE motion on the current Agenda (Motion One) has been considerably overtaken by events there must be some possibility that it will be withdrawn, although this will lead to all the many amendments which have been put to it falling as well.

By and large all of these amendments strengthen the motion in one way or another, although some are inconsistent with one another. (For example, if pushed I would sooner see a national demonstration on the second, rather than the first, day of a national two day strike, so that we could focus on picket lines on the first day).

If Motion One stays on the agenda, the sensible thing will almost certainly be to support all of the amendments in the order in which they appear and to live with any “consequences” one for another that the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) may determine.

Of the other motions there are some which deal with particular issues and three groups which are particularly significant for the whole dispute. One particular motion is Motion 14 (from both the Kirklees branch and the Greater London Region) which deals with what you might call “governance” of the dispute will attract opprobrium from the bureaucracy and their more embarrassingly inadequate hangers on but is worthy of support by all those who care about making our Union effective as well as democratic.

Motions 7, 8 and 9 all take in one way or another the “left” position (which I happen to believe to be right!) that we should be moving to a strike ballot since negotiations have demonstrably failed to achieve an outcome sufficiently close to the objectives which we set ourselves and which our General Secretary spoke for with such passion. These motions should be supported.

Motions 2 and 3 however both take what could be described as a “right” position (except that IMHO it is wrong rather than right) and argue for a ballot of our members on the Government proposals, rather than a strike ballot. This is the position adopted by those at the recent NEC meeting who believe that local government workers have changed our minds since March last year and no longer want to fight to protect our pension rights.

The SOC are proposing to composite motions 2 and 3 (along with the otherwise inoffensive motion 4) and also to composite motions 7, 8 and 9. If this is done two clear positions will be counterposed at the Conference – and the fair and democratic way to deal with this would be to have a “grouped debate” with equal time for each point of view (otherwise if the composites were counterposed but debated separately then whichever side had their position put first would have the advantage of a longer opening speech and an unopposed right of reply.

Here will be a test of whether the SOC for Local Government Conference are prepared to be fair! I hope they will :)

Are there other positions which should be advanced in an Emergency Motion – or should we stick with the sensible and reasonable proposal to move straight ahead with a strike ballot? (Bearing in mind that if the prophets of doom are right then all they have to do is vote no…!)

As always (in fact, more than usually) your comments are welcome..

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