Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hello Liverpool

I arrive today in Liverpool ahead of the TUC Congress. Tomorrow morning is the second (and quite probably final) meeting of this year's UNISON TUC delegation and we will be agreeing our policy positions on the various motions and amendments (and Composites) on the agenda.

As things stand, of the 85 motions on the Congress agenda, aside from the three motions which we are amending and about which I have blogged before, the position being recommended to the delegation by the Policy Committee of the NEC is to support, 71, opposed 1 and defer making a decision about the other 10 (meaning that there is no recommendation from the Policy Committee on those 10 – yet).

The one motion which we are being recommended to oppose at this stage is Motion 7 from the Prison Officers Association (POA) which calls upon the TUC to coordinate strike action which would breach the anti-union laws in order to reclaim the right to take strike action which the Tory Government took away and New Labour has refused to restore.

I can imagine the arguments against this proposition, which is certainly ambitious. However the POA, having been on the receiving end of outrageous legal attacks by this disgrace of a Government, are right to say that the more limited campaigning undertaken to date has failed to achieve any significant reduction in the anti-democratic restrictions on the rights of working people which hobble our movement.

Whilst the big unions will not be persuaded to take the risks which the POA have had no choice but to take, Motion 7 asks a question of the leaders of our movement, about what it is we have got for our support of New Labour, which needs now to be asked (and to which an answer is certainly outstanding).

The motion from the CWU (Number 84) which asks the same question is one of those upon which the NEC Policy Committee did not make a recommendation in August. The CWU rightly point out that trade unionists are not supporting New Labour and calls upon the TUC to organise a Conference at which the trade unions can consider how to achieve political representation for our members. If UNISON's TUC delegation supports the speech given by our General Secretary to our National Delegate Conference in June then we will follow through and vote for this motion.

The other nine motions on which no recommendation has yet been made are as follows;

Motion 10 on Fighting Fascism from PCS (I am at a loss – as I write – to see why we are not simply being recommended to support this. It may be that there are reservations about its call for a national demonstration to be called by the TUC).

Motion 32 on the Peoples' Charter from the RMT. Though if I am well informed in hearing that the RMT will support the UNITE amendment to their motion (which supports “the principles of” the Charter and commits to campaigning for progressive policies in the Labour Party) then I cannot believe we will oppose this motion as amended.

Motion 47 from BALPA opposing a tax on air travel (the Green in me hopes we oppose this!)

Motion 49 from PCS on Defending Public Services (only a cynic would think that we have not come out in support of this in order to strengthen our hand in some argument about a Composite, since I cannot see a word in the motion itself which is not in line with UNISON policy.

Motion 56 from the NUT on Education and the Economic Crisis (which is probably giving the General Council the collywobbles with its call for a national demonstration ahead of the General Election).

Motion 70 on copyright piracy from BECTU (which calls for internet service providers to clamp down on illegal downloading). I can see both sides of this argument and will be interested to hear the views of other delegates.

Motion 73 from Equity on “Workers in Adult Entertainment” (which touches on the ongoing debate about whether workers in “adult” entertainment (and/or the sex industry) need union organisation or exit strategies). Again I can see both sides of this argument, but come down generally on the side or organising workers rather than putting moral judgements about their work ahead of their need for organisation. This motion opposes extending the category of “sex encounter establishments” so that local authorities can limit the number of lap dancing clubs in their area – and on this point I do think that democratically elected local politicians should have some such authority.

Motion 82 from the Trades Councils calling for the defence of TUC Unemployed Workers Centres (about which any concerns must be ones about the detail and volume of work being required of the General Council, who are presumably encouraging the larger affiliates not to commit support until they have been able to come to some understanding with the movers?)

Motion 85 from the RMT (which calls for the TUC Young Members Conference to have the right to submit a motion to Congress). There is no coherent argument against this reasonable proposal, and if incoherent arguments are advance I shall let you know on this blog.

Other than these motions above we are to be recommended to support all the other motions on the agenda. The motions we are supporting are in many cases more important than those discussed above (with the exception perhaps of Motion 84!) but since tomorrow's delegation meeting is likely to focus on the motions where no recommendation has yet been made I thought I would comment on those.

No comments: