Thursday, June 11, 2009

Being lobbied in the run up to Conference

As a UNISON NEC member I’ve had a couple of messages from UNISON members lobbying in the run up to Conference over the last two days, one welcome and one less so.

The Dudley Branch are lobbying us for support for their sensible motion that we should affiliate to the Construction Safety Campaign (CSC), which has not been prioritised for debate (and will not therefore be discussed) but which the NEC has agreed to support “with qualifications”.

The “qualification” is that the NEC was told that we would not be permitted to affiliate. A diligent reader of this blog checked this out with the CSC who advised that they would very much welcome UNISON’s affiliation.

Since motions which are not taken at Conference are then referred to the NEC it is well worthwhile for the Dudley branch to be lobbying NEC members to support affiliation to the Campaign and I wish them luck.

A less welcome letter appeared to come from one UNISON branch official also on behalf of two others. This was a complaint about the decision not to permit the “Trade Union Friends of Israel” to have a stall at our Conference this year.

In objecting to this decision the letter’s authors said; “We believe that Unison have a duty of care to all members who attend conference no matter what there point of view and that FREE SPEECH and DEMOCRACEY must be upheld at all costs or the TRADE UNION MOVEMENT is LOST. We feel that we are attending conference in an atmosphere of HOSTILITY and INTIMADATION and FEAR of VIOLENCE.”

Having been copied in on the letter I expressed a personal view in response; “Speaking purely personally I am very glad that there will not be a TUFI stall at UNISON Conference this year. Following the genocidal attack upon Gaza earlier this year I would have been deeply offended had we given space to any group acting as apologists for the Zionist state. If any UNISON member wishes to ensure that TUFI is permitted a stand at future Conferences it would be very simple to put a motion to Conference to that effect. If that motion were supported by a majority of members in a branch, then prioritised for debate at Conference and then supported at Conference this would demonstrate that that was the wish of UNISON members. Incidentally, I think that there is a real concern about violence in relation to the presence of TUFI at our Conference, but that this is a concern about the violence perpetrated by the Israeli Defence Force upon the Palestinian people.I should stress that this is not an official response from UNISON but simply the expression of personal opinion from an individual to whom you had copied your message.”

I hope that Conference passes the Composite motion on Palestine and that we continue to work in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Update on Friday - I apologise for any offence caused to the authors of the letter in the original version of this post, which has now been edited. I strongly disagree with what was said in the letter but respect absolutely the right of fellow trade unionists to express their views.


zachary said...

Well, it looks like UNISON is well on the way to driving out all Jews who, like most British Jews, are broadly sympathetic to the Jewish state of Israel.

For my part I think it is rank hypocrisy to permit pro-Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalists a stall, but deny it to pro-Jewish nationalists.

Also, Jon, the organizers were not concerned about TUFI violence on PSC members, but vice versa.

As for your implicitly attributing alleged Israeli "genocidal" violence to TUFI, presumably that goes for most British Jews too, who, as I said, are broadly, if not uncritically, sympathetic to Israel and the Jewish nationalism, or Zionism, that created it.

Anonymous said...

Well gosh Jon, I'm sorry it would offend you. We wouldn't want you to feel uncomfortable! Being confronted by those with a different opinion to yours must be very distressing! How wonderful that UNISON have taken this decision, we wouldn't want you to get upset.

Jon Rogers said...

Well I get confronted with different opinions at every meeting of the UNISON NEC so I don't worry about that.

I do worry about my Union giving a platform to apologists for Zionism - and that is not out of any hostility to Jewish workers but to the military action taken by the Zionist state against the Palestinian people.

We would not have given space to supporters of apartheid.

Nick Venedi said...

I am hoping that this debate does not mean that those of us on the broad left do not recognise the genuine work and contribution our Jewish brothers and sisters have made over the years to the class struggle. We need to keep a balance here and separate the Zionists from the oppressed who can be found everywhere and on both sides. Violence must be condemned on all sides and UN resolutions accepted and implemented by all. Israel must accept the creation of a free independent Palestinian state and the Palestinians will have to live with an Israeli state that denounces violence and oppression.

Nick Venedi