Friday, July 11, 2008

Prentis condemns Brown Government without regret...

My apologies to regular readers (Sid and Doris Blogger) for intermittent blogging for the next little while – but we do have a lot on at work!

This may also delay my report of an interesting meeting Wednesday of UNISON’s Development and Organisation Committee which had a full agenda addressing proposals to introduce annual assessments for branches and to restructure (or even abolish) our Service Group structures – and receiving a report from Staffing Committee Chair, Bob Oram on the changes being made among our staff.

More on all of that later.

In the few moments I now have I would just like to let you know about Wednesday’s meeting of UNISON’s TUC delegation, which will be the only meeting of the delegation before Congress.

(Last year’s controversial proposal to replace the second delegation meeting – previously held to consider approving amendments to motions on the Congress agenda – with a “virtual meeting” has now become a proposal to delegate the approval of amendments to the NEC Policy Committee who will themselves have a “virtual meeting”).

The new approach to soliciting motions for consideration by the delegation from the “constituent bodies” of the delegation had achieved exactly the result hoped for by its protagonists – and I was able to salute the farsighted wisdom of the Policy Committee who had been able to ensure that, in choosing three motions for submission to the TUC, the delegation meeting had three motions to choose from.

When questioned about the new procedure, the Chair of Policy, Jane Carolan, gave a robust defence of the new approach, forcefully reminding my NEC colleague Glenn Kelly that the NEC had endorsed this new approach but also stating that this had the assent of the Regional Convenors. Since not a single Region had brought forward a proposed motion for the TUC, UNISON members may wish to enquire of their Regional Convenor about how and why they supported the new approach.

Activists whose major focus is on the work of our national Service Groups and Self-Organised Groups (also, along with Young Members, “constituent bodies” of the TUC delegation) may also want to ask a few questions. In general, now that the leadership of the Union have turned over the stone under which the unwritten “rules” governing UNISON’s relationship with the TUC had been left since vesting day it may be timely for activists to turn our attention to improving the accountability and transparency of our TUC work in general.

That is for the future.

Yesterday we agreed the three motions which were put before us – although thankfully with some amendments.

A worthy if somewhat anodyne motion on the National Health Service will, I hope, be strengthened and improved by further work to be undertaken between the Chair of the Health Service Group and the Chair of Policy prior to submission to the TUC. Since the Government’s sixtieth birthday present to the NHS is the threat of marketisation, we can anticipate a major composite motion from health unions which will be based upon the UNISON motion.

The second motion was on public sector pay, I suggested that the word “notes” (in relation to the Government’s public sector pay policy) needed to be replaced by something stronger. The General Secretary agreed and suggested the word “condemns” which seems to hit the mark rather better. Rather than wonder about how the weaker form of words got as far as the delegation meeting, what matters now is that this motion should form the basis for a strong composite calling (once more) on the TUC to coordinate the campaigns of the public sector unions. Delegates were critical of the absence of coordination to date – although Dave Prentis made the fair point that the TUC could not coordinate the trade unions if they did not want to be coordinated. I can see the problem – suppose a couple of large unions in an industry did a deal with the Government behind the back of other Unions – that would be a problem. Perhaps this year’s TUC President should have a word with the General Secretary of the second largest affiliate about that matter…

The third motion which we agreed was on public services and I was pleased that my suggestion that we needed something other than “regrets” in relation to the Government’s continued privatisation of our public services was accepted. However, the General Secretary didn’t want us to use “condemns” twice and so the Chair of Policy said she would get a Thesaurus out in order to come up with something stronger. Perhaps we can be marked down for poor use of English by the General Purposes Committee if we over utilise the same verbs in our TUC submissions? (Although I think the National Union of Teachers would probably let us off writing out one hundred times “I must not condemn the Government twice in one Congress”…)

I am afraid that I missed this opportunity to burst into a rendition of “Je Ne Regrette Rien” although I did take the opportunity to point something out to the many people in the room who had backed Gordon Brown – rather than John McDonnell – for Labour Leader and who might, if their comments at the time are to be taken at face value, have believed that Brown would be better than Blair (and thus genuinely “regret” that he is not).

I didn’t say anything particularly clever or eloquent but it was something I wanted to get off my chest.

I said; “I told you so.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From what I know, Service Groups reps were presented with a 54 page doc less than a week before the meeting - with no SGE meeting scheduled - and asked for motions for the TUC. This is not positive, isn't democracy and ought to be questioned!