Monday, June 22, 2009

UNISON Structures Review - three steps forward and another step in the right direction

Continuing my belated reporting from last week's UNISON Conference, and picking out issues which I think are important, I want to say something about the debate on UNISON's bargaining structures.

The Conference agreed to merge the Water and Environment Service Group with the Transport Service Group, to create a new Police and Justice Service Group and to create a new Service Group for the Community and Voluntary Sector. These changes are rightly applauded on the UNISON website.

For those who had been advocating some of these changes - particularly in the voluntary sector - this had been a long time coming. It was noteworthy that in spite of some scaremongering about opposition to this change in particular, no such opposition was in fact expressed.

The one change which did not take place as part of the package of associated measures was the devolution of bargaining responsibility within the Service Groups from the Service Group to its Sector Committees. This proposal did not just fail to get the necessary two thirds majority, it failed to command even a simple majority.

Speaking personally (as I always do on this blog) I am pleased that Conference rejected this particular proposal this year, on the basis of the arguments advanced by the excellent speakers against, all of whom made clear that there is no significant opposition to this devolution, but that Conference wants to see clear proposals for the democratic accountability of Sector Committees before agreeing to entrust them with autonomy over some of the most vital issues dealt with by our trade union.

Much of the work associated with the review of UNISON structures can now continue - and next year I hope we will see a comprehensive - and democratic - package of measures to further develop the necessary devolution of bargaining responsibility.

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