Thursday, January 29, 2009

Term Limits in trade unions?

The agenda for next week's Greater London Regional Council AGM includes an interesting proposal to limit NEC members to three terms of office.

On the face of it this looks like a good idea to increase member participation - but it is not at all that simple.

UNISON is a lay member-led union by Rule and that means that the people we elect need to be in a position to control and direct the work of senior full-time officials (who are of course appointed on a permanent basis).

Who would benefit from term limits on the NEC? It would not be our members.


Ruth Jones said...

This is an off the wall proposal. There is no merit whatsover in a term limit. In many ways lay activism is an antidote to bureaucracy and careerism in the trade union movement. Continuity is no less important than renewal and UNISON is big enough and diverse enough to accomodate all members who want to serve in representative positions - at the various levels of the union.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand the left has far less to fear from term limits then the current leadership. Whilst it may not be ideal we could cope easily, however the current leadership operate on the basis of a small group of “elite” NEC members who depend on a number of minions to be voting fodder.A lot of whom wouldn’t be able to chew gum without their direction.

Anonymous said...

Then again, other committee's in the union do have a fixed term of office. The National Women's Committee only allows members to serve 2 consecutive terms before having at least a 2 year break. This enables many more women to have the experience of serving on a national committee and also means that regions have to think about succession planning, something which has not been done properly in the union

Marko North-West said...

I think Anonymous is talking a load of tripe! If members want to vote somebody in for 40 years in a row then so be it, thats their individual choice (as far as a democratic election process goes).It dosent matter whether they are left, centre, etc. Members decide on policies and candidates record,and if the incumbent has done a good job or not in the precedeing two years. Like a good wine some years its vintage and the left do well, other years the wine is vintage the other way and the right or "mods" do well. Thats politics! You can get individuals who are mavericks though and the electorate just love em, thats called popularity! I suspect all sides in the debate would like some of that in a non vintage year!

Anonymous said...

NEC member against term limits shock!

An NEC member being for term limits reminds me of turkeys and yuletide.

Jon Rogers said...

But my dear anon, the correct way for UNISON members to impose a term limit on me (for example) would be to elect someone else.

And if people I respect in the Region ever came to me and told me I wasn't doing the job they wanted done and that I had lost their support then I would stand aside and let someone else be the candidate of the left.

The problem we have to face up to is that as long as we fail to extend the principle of democratic election - which is good enough for the General Secretary and the Branch Secretary - to many more of the positions in between our Union will be run by those who are permanently unelected.

That's the democratic deficit in our Union, not the question of how many times people are elected to positions which have little real power at present.

Anonymous said...

the national Women's Committe being used as an exemplar! Shock horror! Whilst there are many excellent women members on the National women's Committee who regularly report back formally and in writing to their regions and try to connect with the women in their region this does not happen in all regions -London being the one that I am most familiar with!In principle i can see a reason for time limits -but then, why don't we apply it across the board for all positions -regional convenors, general secretaries etc? I am a member of Jon's branch -and amazingly that does not mean I agree with everything he says -but having considerted this I can see positives and negatives. People stand every two years -a small number of people who can be bothered to vote elect those people standing -that is the state of union -and national -democracy -but it is democracy. I really do not see overwhelming numbers of people wanting to stand. Knowing how long it takes to become familiar with Unison as a steward, convenor or branch officer i would hazard an informed guess that the first two years of a new NEC member's role is learning about it. The next two years is becoming familiar with it and the next two years -if you are elected -is becoming adept at navigating thro' the bureacracy -and then bingo -out you go! What a gift to UNISON officials who may wish to keep informed lay input to a minimum.On the other hand it may help get rid of the dead wood that does exist and who never consider telling members what it is that they do for us. But that's democracy!