Monday, March 30, 2009

UNISON and the Peoples' Charter

I read with interest that both the South West and North West Regional TUCs have endorsed the Peoples’ Charter.

I am particularly intrigued to read that UNISON delegates in the South West opposed this, although UNISON nationally has not yet taken any policy position on the Charter, which has attracted support from (amongst others) the Morning Star. (It has been pointed out to me in comments on this post that the earlier wording of this post could have been read as suggesting that I thought our delegates in the North West had opposed the Charter. I apologise to anyone who was misled by this).

As I have argued here previously, the Charter largely reflects UNISON policies. More to the point, it is arguably less ambitious and less left-wing than the policy platform for Saturday’s “Put People First” demonstration, to which UNISON signed up wholeheartedly. That’s why I have signed the Charter.

There is no good reason why any UNISON official should oppose the Peoples’ Charter. The only arguments which I have been offered against the Charter are economically illiterate rehashes of 1940s Tory arguments against the welfare state (“we can’t afford to nationalise the banks because it will threaten our pensions” – d’oh!)

If there is motivation within in our movement to oppose the Peoples’ Charter it will arise from a misperception that the Charter is intended to pave the way for socialists to leave the Labour Party. It may well be that some of those who support the Charter wish this to happen, but socialists within the Labour Party are not so daft! Indeed it is Labour Party activists who are amongst the most active in promoting the Charter.

The Charter’s difficult and prolonged genesis (which was less inclusive than it might have been) may have given some hostages to fortune, but any sensible activist will read what the Charter actually says and make their mind up on that basis.

Twenty years of trade unionism teaches me that it is quite possible to work alongside fellow trade unionists who aren’t Labour Party members without being tempted to leave the Party oneself.

19 of the 24 MPs who support the Charter are Labour MPs which strikes me as a persuasive argument that supporters of the Charter need to focus upon the Labour Party if we want to achieve our objectives. However, I completely understand that many good socialists are outside the Labour Party and yet still want our trade union movement to fight for the interests of our members.

The Peoples Charter is an opportunity for UNISON’s leadership to live up to the best of our Union and to lead our movement. I hope that we will rise to this challenge. The opposition to the Charter within our movement seems to reflect the least intelligent elements of right wing loyalty to the Government before our members.


Tony C said...

I can see from the link that UNISON in the SW opposed the Charter. Can you back up your comments about UNISON at NWTUC?

Tony C said...

I read the comments thread on your SU link before posting and they say nothing of the sort. A Unite trades council delegate complains about UNISON [and his own union] but nothing is said about the delegation position on the Charter. You are jumping to point scoring conclusions [with your juvenile nudge nudge wink wink links] without any facts to support your assertion.

Robert said...

What we need is a government that knows what the hell it's doing, and to be honest the two leaders Labour and the Tories are lost, I doubt Brown has an idea of what life is like in the real world, charters if we talk about Labours charters so far it's to remove the welfare state. some bloody government.

Anonymous said...

Some positive news on this issue - I hear that UNISON regional council in Scotland is supporting the charter.