Saturday, November 07, 2009

Service Group Autonomy?

Next week's meeting of the Development and Organisation Committee of the UNISON NEC will consider the annual report on the scheme of representation for delegates at UNISON National Delegate Conference (as we did last year and every year).

I shall probably be one of those who will ask colleagues to consider making that scheme a little more flexible, and I shall probably find myself in a minority on that question.

However this year the Committee is being asked to agree that the scheme of representation which we agree for National Delegate Conference shall apply also to Service Group Conferences.

Under Rule D.1.3 it is for the NEC to draw up the scheme of representation for National Delegate Conference but under Rule D.3.4.5 it is for the Service Group Executive to draw up a scheme of representation for Service Group Conference to be approved by the Service Group Conference itself.

If the NEC were to seek to impose a scheme of representation upon Service Groups we would be negating this explicit provision of our Rule Book and infringing upon the autonomy of Service Groups.

Even if this year's Chairs and Secretaries of the Service Groups could be gathered together to assent to the NEC dictating to Service Groups how they should structure their Conferences in this way that would not rewrite the Rules which provide explicitly for the autonomy of Service Groups.

UNISON is a large trade union and our members need to be able to identify their Union with their own particular interests - this was part of the reason for the new Rule Book definition of an occupational group agreed at this year's Conference.

The Rule Change that the NEC could not even get a simple majority for (concerning the devolution of bargaining responsibility to Sectors before we had proper structures for democratic accountability) fell because UNISON members want devolved and democratic structures which don't just take the Union out to the members but also ensure that it is under their control.

That control cannot be exercised simply through the NEC, other parts of our democratic machinery also have their legitimate roles and spheres of influence.

It seems to me that an attempt by the NEC (in the name of "consistency") to dictate to Service Groups how they should be represented at their Conferences flies directly in the face of the message that Conference tried to give us in June.

I would be interested to know if any of you other UNISON members out there (including regular readers Sid and Doris Rule-Book-Anorak) are concerned about this point. I think you probably should be.


mj said...

Yes keep up the good work!

Kate Ahrens said...

This proposal appears to go a long way beyond the NEC's remit. The rule book is very clear and explicit that Service Group Conferences can determine their own scheme of representation and that is certainly followed in the Health group where an attempt a few years ago to move to a scheme based on the National Delegate Conference scheme was roundly defeated.
What is the timescale for the NEC decision to be made and publicised to branches? I would think that motions to the service group conferences reasserting our democratic control over our own conferences would be appropriate.