Monday, January 28, 2008

Conference is coming - where's that Rule Book?

It’s getting to be Conference time again…

Which is to say that National Delegate Conference is now four and a half months away, but the deadline for submission of motions and Amendments to Rule is just four weeks away (noon on the 26th February).

Since most branches of the Union hold monthly meetings of their Branch Committee – and since Conference motions have to be agreed at a quorate meeting of either the Branch or Branch Committee, now is the time to be drafting those motions (or Rule Amendments).

At last week’s meeting of the NEC Development and Organisation Committee (which I am afraid I missed as I was sitting an exam) there was some discussion about whether to propose reducing the thirteen week qualifying period for entitlement to legal representation. A view was (probably rightly) taken that such a proposal would stand a better chance of success coming from a branch or Region than from the NEC.

I do think we need to reduce the qualifying period for legal assistance. It is utterly daft to try to organise (for example) a new employer on the basis that we cannot guarantee to provide effective support if the employer response promptly with hostility. This will no doubt be debated again at Conference this year.

I am also interested in Rule Amendments which would clarify the role of Conference as the “supreme Government” of the Union (to use the lovely old phrase in the Rule Book). There are a variety of specific Rules which give powers to the National Executive Council which, it has been argued, are exceptions to this general rule about the supremacy of Conference. These cover areas including the interpretation of the Rules themselves, the granting of legal assistance, approval of industrial action and the employment of staff.

It is, for example, because the Rule Book gives sole responsibility for the employment of staff to the NEC that recent attempts even to debate the principle of the election of officials have been ruled out of order. If we wish to have a trade union in which important questions can be debated, we probably need to pay a little more attention this year than we have recently to Rule Amendments.

Conference may or may not choose to give a two thirds majority to Rule Amendments asserting its authority vis-à-vis the NEC (or for that matter the Standing Orders Committee – SOC) but it should probably be given the choice.


Anonymous said...

I know where my Rule Book is - doesn't everyone study it on a regular basis?!

Any views on this draft motion I got in in my Branch .....?

In a nutshell, "let's stop fighting the old battles of anti-privatisation and warm to the idea of the "third way", ie it's gonna happen anyway, as this govt is dead-set on it, so let's aim at our members moving from the traditional public sector in education, health care, social services etc etc to dealing with the reality of mass outsourcing and privatisation. Let's embrace the concept of non profit making social enterprises".

Not been approved as a Branch motion to conference yet (yes, it all seems so early yet but the timetable is upon us!), but I'm unsure how welcome an idea or how much of a lead balloon this will be?? I know exactly what my own gut instinct is ....

Sorry to jump in on your blog re conference, but this is all that my technical ability allows (I'm still trying to work out how 240 records can fit on a teeny i-pod!) - would just like some honest views back. They may change my opinion - or they may not...

Anonymous said...

Cheers for your reply - I can always trust my gut instinct, but wondered if I was missing something on this proposed motion.
Your reply confirmed my own position