Sunday, June 08, 2008

UNISON NEC debates Conference amendments

Much of the discussion at Wednesday's meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) was in preparation for UNISON National Delegate Conference in Bournemouth next week – all delegates should how have a copy of the Order of Business for Conference (details of which are also online here).

The NEC agreed its policy on amendments submitted to motions on the Conference agenda, which had previously been discussed by the relevant NEC Committees. If any London branches want advance notice of NEC policy on any amendment please email me.

In general the NEC is supporting most of the motions, amendments and composites on the Conference Agenda and taken as a whole the motions set out a positive and progressive policy agenda which amounts to an alternative to the reactionary policies of the New Labour Government.

In order to be accountable to London UNISON members I will focus here on the contributions which I made seeking to change recommendations from NEC Committees, where I disagreed with the policy being recommended to the NEC.

I opposed NEC policy to oppose Amendment 15.2 which urges branches to make links with other trade unions in campaigning on pay. The NEC policy, which was agreed, seems to be based upon the view that our priority must be to talk to our own members before talking to other Unions. Since nothing in Amendment 15.2 contradicts this anodyne statement of the obvious the Bromley branch may have a fair chance of persuading Conference that the NEC is misguided on this should Motion 15 be reprioritised for debate on Friday afternoon.

I also disagreed with NEC policy of opposition to Amendment 38.1 on Housing from York City. However now that the amendment is part of Composite H which will have the support of the NEC that disagreement will not find expression on the floor of Conference.

I predictably disagreed with the decision of the NEC to ask Lambeth branch to remit Amendment 45.1 and, if the branch refuses, to oppose that Amendment, which is timetabled for debate on Thursday afternoon. The Amendment simply elaborates a little on items to be included in a report which Conference is being asked to call for from the NEC, seeking to reaffirm the rights of members, branches and other representative bodies to campaign for their policies in member ballots. The rationale for NEC opposition to this amendment as advanced at the NEC was that the amendment is in error since individual UNISON members do not have the right to campaign. Since this argument contravenes UNISON Rule B.2.5 I imagine someone will have to think a bit harder about this before Conference, although the majority of my NEC colleagues were easily persuaded of the rightness of the policy of opposing the Amendment.

I disagreed with the policy of opposition to Amendment 63.3 from Somerset which (as delegates will see) does no more than restate the facts about a previous Conference decision. Conference instructed the NEC to publish the voting record of MPs in the UNISON group of MPs and the NEC acquiesced in the decision of the Labour Link Committee to comply with this instruction simply by placing a link from our website to other sites where you can monitor the activities of MPs. This is all a matter of historical record, but the NEC is opposed to Conference reminding itself of the truth about this. Debate on this motion was enlivened by the observation from South West Regional NEC member Steve Warwick (who also chairs the Labour Link Committee) that he “knows what Somerset County are like”. Motion 63 (from Bromley and entertainingly titled “New Labour – What Do We Get For Our Money?”) will only be likely to be debated if it is reprioritised for debate on Friday afternoon.

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