Monday, March 05, 2007

Special Conference Composites decided

I am on my way home from a fringe meeting organised by the Kirklees branch in advance of tomorrow’s Special UNISON Local Government Conference to discuss the Local Government Pension Scheme.

It now appears that the central debate at tomorrow’s Conference will be a grouped debate between two counterposed Composite motions, Composite A will be the position of the majority of the Service Group Executive, backed by the South East Region and North Yorkshire, which is against a strike ballot and for a consultative ballot on whether or not to accept the Government proposals. No proposal is made as to whether there should be any recommendation to the members in such a consultative ballot.

Composite C, to be moved by the Kirklees Branch, has the backing of the Greater London Region, several London branches and Wolverhampton. It reflects the policy of last year’s Conference – and the policy of the SGE until very recently – and calls for a strike ballot. It also calls for any further package to be put before the June Conference to make a recommendation ahead of any ballot on acceptance.

Although supporters of Composite A will argue that the current Government proposals are a good deal, that the members don’t want to strike and that the democratic thing to do is to put it to the members, I hope that the advocates of Composite C will find that their better and more persuasive arguments win the day.

The mixed bag of proposals from the Government simply don’t deliver on the central point for which our members took strike action on March, and there is no sense in ducking that issue.

Nevertheless it would be true that we might have to settle for something less than our objectives (hardly a novelty in our movement!) if our members could not be won to support the action necessary to win – but we have hardly even tried asking at this stage, and where the debate has been had it has generally been won.

Finally – and crucially – it is more democratic to put a clear choice to our members in a strike ballot, with our leadership demonstrating some real leadership by campaigning in support of our Union policies amongst our membership, rather than abdicating responsibility by the ruse of a consultative ballot with no recommendation.

It is to the credit UNISON’s Local Government Service Group that we are having a Conference to debate this vital issue. Whatever the outcome we will at least have had the opportunity to have a debate.

I just hope it isn’t like the last Special Conference at the Ally Pally, the closely contested outcome of which has very much come back to haunt us!

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