Sunday, October 05, 2008

One Member One Seat?

Regular readers (Sid and Doris Rule-Book-Anorak) will be looking forward to a report from Tuesday’s meeting of the UNISON NEC Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee.

For those lucky few who are as fascinated as I am by trade union Rule Books, I’ll comment in advance on a discussion which is due to come up about the introduction of the new UNISON Rule D.3.5.8. which seeks to apply to UNISON's Service Groups a principle which you might call OMOS (One Member One Seat).

The new rule D 3.5.8 is as follows:
‘No member who holds a seat on the National Executive Council as a service group representative under Rule D.2.3 can hold any other seat on a service group executive at the same time’

The intention of this Rule amendment seems to be to ensure that no one holds two voting seats on a Service Group Executive (SGE) at the same time. Like any measure which restricts the rights of candidates to stand in elections it is open to the objection that it equally restricts the right of members to vote for whomsoever they want in an election.

However, Conference agreed this Rule. I have a deal of sympathy with trying to prevent individuals occupying more than one role at the same meeting. It can create confusion about accountability – but more importantly it limits the number of active members who are involved in the Union.

A few years ago, whilst a serving member of the NEC, I was prevailed upon to run for Regional Convenor. The Regional Council thought better of this idea, and I think it’s always worth learning from experience – I think on reflection that it was wrong to try to occupy both positions as an NEC member and Regional Convenor.

Since reaching this conclusion I have not sought election to the Regional Committee (noting apart from anything else that it is not always those with votes at a meeting who most influence its decisions!) There is a wealth of talent in our Union and plenty of people available to contest seats on the Regional Committee.

Although there is a difference between the position of Regional NEC members on their Regional Committee and Service Group members on their SGE – in that Regional members of the NEC don’t have a vote at the Regional Committee, it still limits participation in the Region if NEC members hold other positions as well on a Committee they are already entitled to attend.

Perhaps at next year’s Conference we should consider making the Rules on Regional NEC members consistent with those we have now adopted for Service Group members?

The D&O Committee this week will also need to decide how to bring the new Rules into effect – and what the implications should be for sitting members of an SGE who want to seek election to a Service Group seat on the NEC – should they be required to resign their seat on the SGE before seeking election to the NEC?

I don’t think so – but would welcome the views of interested UNISON members (particularly in the Greater London Region of course!)

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