Sunday, June 08, 2008

Who runs our Union?

A couple of items discussed at last week's meeting of UNISON's National Executive Council raised - for me - concerns about governance and accountability in the Union.

The Chair of the NEC Staffing Committee, Bob Oram, gave the NEC a verbal report which covered among other things, the recruitment of new organising staff.

I had queried why a detailed report on this appeared to have been given to the Service Group Liaison Committee in March but had not been given to either the NEC or its Development and Organisation Committee. The Chair of the SLGC (Jane Carolan) had already explained to me that the report had been received because the Committee had asked for it – which is fair enough.

However I am concerned that important areas of the NEC’s overall responsibility for management of the Union are slipping away into other less accountable forums.

The Service Group Liaison Committee, consisting of Service Group Chairs and a small number of leading NEC members is one such body, another is the regular forum for Regional Convenors and Regional Secretaries, of which our President commented that upon being invited to that meeting she had learned things that she hadn’t known – but then she is only the senior lay member of the Union…

Happily the Chair of the Staffing Committee said he would be only too pleased to provide written reports.

Another issue raising questions of governance in the Union is the current review of UNISON’s service group structures, discussed at Conference last year, which will not be on the agenda for this year’s Conference – but there will be discussion at the Development and Organisation Committee in July and the NEC in the autumn. This will follow on from discussion within the Service Group Executives. There has also been consultation with Regional Convenors so we can anticipate some discussion at the Regional Committee.

Options under consideration include eliminating Service Groups from our structure all together and also rearranging our service group structures in ways which merge smaller service groups and reduce the size of the local government service group. Whilst no one thinks our current structures are perfect, no particularly coherent argument has yet been advanced for any of the competing options under discussion.

Branches should probably be alert to the possibility that next year we will see an attempt at an “enabling” Rule Amendment which would permit the NEC to restructure the Union, although this idea will probably have met well-deserved oblivion before we get to Conference 2009.

No comments: