Sunday, February 10, 2008

Regional Council Annual General Meeting - London4Change - but changing what?

I said earlier that I would post a further report from Wednesday's meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Council Annual General Meeting. Those seeking a somewhat different point of view can find one here. I should stress that what follows are my personal opinions.

This was another well attended Annual General Meeting of our Regional Council, though those attending in such numbers have not been able to make other meetings of the Regional Council quorate since 2005 - we must do better this year.

We managed to agree one policy motion (on pay) and to debate four Rule Amendments (none of which were carried by the required two thirds majority). We therefore failed to reach the majority of the agenda put forward by branches and Committees in the Region. Our Convenor will have to rise to the challenge of chairing future Council meetings in a way which facilitates swifter progress. (it was unfortunate that several obviously unnecessary counts were taken of votes where the show of hands was clearly not that close).

Gloria Hanson (Newham local government) defeated Mandy Berger (Camden local government) for Convenor and Conroy Lawrence (Lewisham hospital) won the position of Deputy Convenor in a contest with Malcolm Campbell (Croydon local government). The elections for other Regional Council officers went with these results so that the candidates of "London4Change" defeated candidates of "the left". The results were very close, as is evidenced from the results in the election of six General seats on the Regional Committee in which each "slate" won three positions.

A victim of the vote was former Equality Convenor, Khi Rafe, who stood as an independent candidate (though clearly supported by the left). Khi had established a high profile in that role over the past year and will be a hard act to follow.

These results are consistent with a margin of victory in single figures at a meeting at which the number of votes cast must have exceeded 250.

The winning side continued their practice of close cooperation with paid officials (delegates uncertain of how to vote were visibly introduced to certain lay activists who helpfully assisted in the completion of ballot papers - although this shouldn't have been necessary since otherwise unmarked voting instructions went so far as to tell those supporting the leadership slate in which order to cast their preferential votes depending upon the initial letter of their surname). If this impressive level of organisation could only be translated to the workplace some of the branches who have such difficulty securing the release of delegates to attend meetings would no doubt be in a better place! Initially I was clear that "London4Change" stood against what they perceive to be the "far left" in our Union. However after two years in which the elected Convenor and Deputy have stood - and been elected - on this basis I am still waiting to see what my colleagues are in favour of (rather than what they are opposed to). This year I learned that "London4Change" are against national strike action on pay, but not what it is that they think should be done positively...

Some local government delegates got the impression that certain leading lights supportive of the winning candidates were also opposed to local government UNISON branches (!) - certain colleagues from health made ill-informed comments about employee relations in local government which appeared to be calculated to sow division between health and local government activists in order to firm up a voting bloc at Regional Council without any thought for the unity or strength of our trade union.

As a member of UNISON United Left I would obviously prefer the Regional Council election results to have been different, but it would be churlish to begrudge the victors their victory or to complain about the level of organisation behind the succesful candidates (indeed if a narrow victory is all that can be achieved with such organisation in the third year of such effort it is very clear that there is a large constituency for lay democracy in the Greater London Region of UNISON).

Those who want to see a lay-led democratic trade union which takes its policies from our membership rather than the odd politics associated with some officials, need to pay more attention to the Union at Regional level. The lack of democratic accountability at Regional level hamstrings us when we are in dispute with employers and undermines campaigns against victimisation.

See you at the June Regional Council comrades, but in the mean time we need to get on with the work in the branches building opposition to Government pay policy and support for UNISON's campaign on pay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Overall the difference between votes for most of the Regional Council Officer posts was about 8 with votes cast ranging from 247 -242.

As I have said on John G's blog -the regional office organised for their slate well. And yes -if only the regional office did the same level of work around supporting branches and SOGs -plus the remaining Regional Councils for 2008 -we might be doing better as a region in terms of recruiting and retaining members.

I think it was sad that some speakers seemed primed to be scathing about Local Government branches and come up with various myths about how easy we all have it in LG.So much for the spirit of unity!

But what is worrying is how there may be a manufactured divide happening in the region between Health and Energy,Environment and Water in one area and Higher Ed and Local Government in another. There really does need to be some work done around getting the service groups to link up -and it strikes me particularly between health and LG bearing in mind the day to day interactions we have and will increasingly have at work.

Well done to all who stood and congrats to the winners -I know how frustrating it is being a Regional Council Officer who wants to actually do something positive in the region so I guess the proof of the new leadership will be in how they ensure we -as a region - get the office to pull out its collective fingers and ensure we have quorate regional councils, effectively support our activists who are under attack, better comms and publicity,increased recruitment and improved working across service groups! A small wish list I know. Kat