Wednesday, November 19, 2008

UNISON Regional Committee report

Tuesday's meeting of the UNISON Greater London Regional Committee was mostly uneventful. It is regrettable that what was described by a former Regional Secretary as the most important Region of what (I believe to be) the most important trade union in the country seems to be doing so little to raise our subterranean Regional profile. I shall mention one or two items worthy of note.

Industrial Action

I was pleased to hear from the Regional Secretary that guidance to branches on industrial action will be updated. UNISON takes almost no official industrial action in Greater London at the moment – and I wish I thought that was because all our members were so happy in our working lives that harmony has broken out in every workplace! No one is eager to strike – but we need to be prepared to take action when the occasion demands it. As a trade union we have to organise ourselves so that, when members take the difficult decision to withdraw our labour and lose pay, our bureaucratic machinery (which we must have to comply with hostile laws) is fit for purpose to help our members achieve their objective – as opposed to erecting hurdles in their way!

Newham branch

The report from the Regional Secretary and Convenor placed into the public domain the news that the Newham local government branch is now under “Regional supervision” (the UNISON equivalent of “special measures”). The Regional Organiser is acting as Branch Secretary.

We were told that the branch had been operating outside national rules “for some time.” Now, we were told, was the time for the Region to step in. Questions about the reasons for the timing of this action went – in effect – unanswered. Deputy Regional Convenor, Conroy Lawrence gallantly stepped in to tell the Committee that we did not want to go into detail but that everything would come out in time. As I said at the meeting, I do hope that this is true. Indeed I shall aim to ensure that it is.

Those who have taken this action can be confident that their actions will be scrutinised.

Hammersmith and Barnet branches

I asked the Regional Secretary and Convenor to consider giving some publicity
to the conduct of loony Tory Councils like job-cutting Hammersmith and “if it moves, privatise it” Barnet. We seem to be missing a trick when it comes to pointing out that Tory Councils in London are showing us all what a Tory Government would be like.

It is a failing of the Regional Labour Link Committee that UNISON is not doing more to expose this nonsense (incidentally I did ask what motions UNISON were putting to the Regional Labour Party Conference on Saturday and was told that there was one on capital stewardship and another one – but no one present could remember what it was...)

With luck UNISON will publicise the campaigns being waged by our members in Barnet and Hammersmith on our website.

Regional Council

The Regional Committee decided (by 9 votes to 8) to oppose a motion from the Lambeth branch on the global financial crisis. I should declare an interest in the Lambeth motion (of course) for which I advocated that the Regional Committee should support the motion.

Opposition was led by the Regional Finance Convenor who worried that nationalising the banks would mean nationalising our pensions and savings. I'll blog further about the arguments for and against this motion.

For now it is up to activists in UNISON branches in London whether or not there is a quorum at the Regional Council on 9 December...

See you there?

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