Monday, June 09, 2008

Regional Council highlights problems in London

It was disappointing (if not, perhaps, unexpected) that last Thursday’s meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Council was not quorate. When Geoff Martin was our Regional Convenor we regularly had quorate meetings of the Regional Council in addition to our Annual Meeting.

Since then (correct me if I am wrong) I don’t think we have had a quorum except at the Annual Meeting, which is far better attended than in the past. Last Thursday was no exception to this unfortunate rule.

The meeting nevertheless provided a useful opportunity to hear about the local government pay dispute from Jean Geldart, who is standing down as Chair of UNISON’s Local Government Service Group next week having been a leading figure in UNISON and NALGO for thirty years. An experienced and respected lay leader who can work with, but not under the direction of, paid officials has much to teach some of our leading lights today.

During questions to Jean it came to light that Greater London is one of two Regions to have omitted several non-local authority employers from the strike ballot owing to a misreading of a national circular. This sort of error is unacceptable and this one needs to be addressed urgently.

The meeting then heard from Labour London Assembly member, Joanne McCartney, who was keen to distance the London Labour Group from national policies, and from Jeremy Corbyn who reported from Parliament, including on his opposition to attacks upon our civil liberties.

The final speaker, Ben Thom from Press for Change gave a thorough and interesting overview of the current position in relation to the rights of transgender people in the workplace. It was unfortunate that the Chair refused to permit a representative of the LGBT self-organised group to make a brief announcement about how UNISON activists could carry forward the issues which the speaker had raised – an omission which I hope will be rectified very soon.

The lack of quorate Regional Council meetings is a symptom of the poor health of UNISON’s lay structures in the Region (as is disrespectful treatment of activists). This is, I am sure, a topic which activists will wish to discuss when we gather shortly in Bournemouth. Although should we meet in a coffee bar (or even a bar) to chat about anything at all we must remember that we will be doing so outside the Rules…

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