Sunday, February 22, 2009

Report from the UNISON Development and Organisation Committee

Half term is over now, so back to blogging...

Here is my personal report to Greater London Region UNISON Branches from the recent special meeting of the Development and Organisation Committee of the UNISON NEC.

Personal report from the Development and Organisation Committee 10 February 2009

The Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) held a special meeting on Tuesday 10 February to consider responses to consultation on Service Group and Branch Structures.

The Review of Service Group and Branch Structures

The consultation process had been deeply flawed and this was reflected in a very low response rate from branches. However, there had been some further consultation and this had been reflected in some changes to the proposals discussed previously.

In particular, the proposal to merge the Energy and Water Service groups, which had been opposed by those Service Groups has been dropped, at least for the time being, and the foolish proposal to move members employed in schools out of the Local Government Service Group has also been abandoned.

The proposals which were agreed by the Committee, and subsequently by the NEC, for submission to Conference fall into two categories. First there are Rule Amendments to vary our Service Group structures, creating a Water, Environment and Transport Service Group, a Community Service Group (for the community and voluntary sector); a Further and Higher Education Service Group and a Police and Justice Service Group.

It was reported to the Committee that members affected by these proposals were broadly in support, although I knew from branches in the Region that the position was somewhat more mixed and complicated that was being reported. It will now be for National Delegate Conference to decide whether to give a two thirds majority to these proposals.

The second group of Rule Amendments, which will directly affect all our members, relate to the respective roles of Service Groups and Sectors within the Union. The essence of these proposals are to delegate to Sectors the autonomy over pay and conditions currently delegated to Service Groups. Whilst these proposals do reflect developments in the Union since Vesting Day in 1993, and also the decisions of National Delegate Conference 2007, they create the potential for a democratic deficit, since Service Group Conferences would no longer be able to discuss pay and conditions issues (as these would be reserved for Sectors).

I proposed a Rule Amendment that would have introduced the possibility of Sector Conferences to address this deficit, but this suggestion did not command support. The Committee Chair and a majority of the Committee did accept some alternative and additional Rule Amendments which I suggested, giving Service Groups a continuing role in overseeing the work of Sectors and clarifying the powers of the NEC in relation to cross service group work and the democratic accountability of Sectors.

The position of the majority of the Committee was that it would be sufficient for the NEC to issue guidelines on the democratic accountability of Sectors. – a view which I do not share. Branches will be able to make decisions about this when we see the full Preliminary Agenda for Conference, and again Rule Amendments will require a two thirds majority.

Other issues

The Committee also agreed changes to the Regional Pool guidelines to align the allocation of funds to the joint region/branch assessments process. It was also agreed that because of delays in the consultation process on the Review of UNISON’s Democratic Structures an interim report on progress to date will be submitted to the Conference with a view to a full report and recommendations being submitted in 2010.

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