Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Development and Organisation Committee report

I was sorry to be late for what could – subject to the wishes of UNISON members in the Greater London Region – be my last meeting of the NEC Development and Organisation Committee.

I joined the meeting as a report on Honoraria payments was being considered. This tricky question – of whether and if so how the Union should compensate activists who carry out large amounts of Union work in their own time – will now be the subject of wide ranging consultation.

My personal feeling – and the practice of the Lambeth branch – is not to pay honoraria but instead to ensure that activists are paid for expenses they incur. However many UNISON branches do find it useful to pay honoraria, and activists will no doubt also be concerned at any perceived increase in central direction of branches. Nevertheless, the current guidelines appear sometimes to be honoured more in the breach than the observance, so some attention to the topic is required.

The Committee then moved on to discuss recommendations for NEC policy on Amendments on the Final Agenda for National Delegate Conference, only a few of which where within the remit of the Committee, and all but two of which were recommended to be supported. The only controversy, caused by an awkward member of the Committee (me) was over a recommendation that we oppose Amendment 1.01 from Greenwich, a sound amendment which I still believe that the office – and the Chair – have misinterpreted.

My genial NEC comrade Bob Oram pointed out in opposition to my support for that amendment that the Committee were clearly reasonable and open minded as they were supporting three amendments from the Lambeth branch. The Chair’s recommendation was carried overwhelmingly and the NEC will oppose the Amendment. Whether Conference will also do so remains to be seen!

The Committee considered a valuable report on branches under regional supervision – and I am pleased that we approved the lifting of regional supervision in the only London branch covered by the report. In the exceptional circumstances in which it is appropriate for the Union to step in to the affairs of a branch it must be right that we step out again as swiftly as possible – and I am only sorry that the Standing Orders Committee for National Delegate Conference are refusing to allow a debate on this topic at Conference because of an alleged link to a current internal disciplinary case.

We also received and approved a report setting out advice to branches on the circumstances in which applicants for membership can be refused – to ensure that we do not fall into the trap of contravening the anti-union laws by unlawfully rejecting applicants. This relates to the underhand practice where members of far-right organisations apply to trade unions hoping to be rejected so that they can claim compensation – a recent legal case has not removed this risk.

Finally, I took the opportunity to point out, as a matter arising from previous minutes, that the previous decision of the Committee to advise the Greater London Region not to debate, at our Regional Council a motion touching in part upon the Labour leadership had now been contradicted by the decision of the Standing Orders Committee to admit motion 44 to the agenda for National Delegate Conference.

The Chair said that that was not a legitimate “matter arising” and should not be minuted as that I was simply trying to make a point.

As if…

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