Sunday, June 14, 2009

A tale of standing orders, card votes and reprioritisation...

This week is UNISON Conference week. National Delegate Conference begins on Tuesday with Service Group Conferences today and tomorrow. I'll blog some more later in the week since, as a branch delegate, I am fairly busy at Local Government Conference.

Local Government Conference kicked off today with a session focusing largely upon the impact of the recession upon our members. A series of fairly worthy motions were agreed pretty much unanimously as a succession of speakers came to the rostrum to report on job cuts and attacks on services.

The platform speaker who condemned the capitalist system deserved the thanks of delegates for waking them up on a Sunday morning. If only the motion to which he had been speaking had had such a thorough analysis of our problems!

The afternoon saw a debate on pay in which a Composite Motion drawn from submissions from the Northern and North West Regions was passed. This motion, in my view unfortunately, seeks to erect new bureaucratic obstacles in the way of national strike action, following the mixed response to, and consequenly limited gains from, the strike action last July.

As the platform speaker who supported this motion observed, the National Joint Council Committee were not wrong to call for a strike ballot nor to call for strike action once a majority had voted for this. To have failed to do so, for all the indications of uncertainty, would have done greater damage to our Union.

Having given a brief indication of the important discussions at the Conference today I shall now please regular readers Sid and Doris Conference-Anorak with a tale of standing orders, card votes and reprioritisation...

Lambeth branch won the heart of the Standing Orders Committee(SOC) through our association with a Card Vote on Reference Back of an SOC Report in relation to our motion 52 (also on pay) - which had not been admitted to the Preliminary Agenda and had therefore not been available for prioritisation before it reappeared on the Final Agenda (at the bottom of the order of business).

Lambeth asked that the motion be timetabled (as prioritised motions are) or that, at the least, it should be ahead of non-prioritised motions (since the only reason it had not been prioritised was because it had been excluded from the Preliminary Agenda). On Saturday SOC had said this could not be done because there was no evidence that the motion would have been prioritised had it been admitted to the Preliminary Agenda. The London delegates' briefing on Saturday evening voted overwhelmingly in a straw poll that the Region would have prioritised the motion, so Lambeth challenged the decision of SOC on the floor of Conference.

Conference supported reference back on this point in the morning but, when SOC returned after lunch, they said they were not inclined to change their mind. Conference was warned that if we voted again for reference back we would have failed to accept the order of business and the Conference would have to adjourn whilst SOC reconsidered the matter. When the Vice President saw the vote on the show of hands he declared it close and called a card vote.

In order to avoid the embarrasment of continuing with business whilst the card vote was counted, the Conference moved on to a lengthy presentation from the Newcastle City Branch.

The Card Vote supported Lambeth's request for reference back (by a considerable margin), but rather than simply responding by moving motion 52 to the top of the non-prioritised motions (which is all we were asking for) SOC have decreed that there shall be a reprioritsation process for the previously non-prioritised motions (even though - given the slow progress of Conference today it is now very unlikely that we shall debate any of them...)

In fairness to SOC this problem has arisen as a result of the referral of the motion between two different Standing Orders Committees and the inability - given unavoidable timetables - of the prioritisation process to deal with motions in such circumstances. This is clearly something to be picked up in the review of Conferences (a process so valuable that it has already led to more comfortable chairs in the Brighton Conference Centre!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why isn't a sitting orders committee then??