Tuesday, November 03, 2009

UNISON Review of the effectiveness of our political funds

If regular readers Sid and Doris Blogger agree that you can give yourself a hat tip I will acknowledge that this story is already on the Lambeth UNISON blog.

All UNISON branches have until 13 November to send their comments in response to the consultation document (available online here).

1. The following are the comments from the Lambeth local government branch in response to the consultation questions in the document on the review of UNISON’s political funds, as agreed by our Branch Committee on 3 November 2009.

– what are the most important political and policy making processes affecting UNISON and its members?

– how will political, constitutional and policy changes impact on the union’s objectives and interests over the next five years?

– in what ways should branches, regions and the national union change their methods of campaigning and political organisation to meet these challenges?

2. The election of the UK Government, local authorities and devolved administrations are vitally important to UNISON members. The failure of New Labour and the likely election of a Conservative Government will presage serious attacks upon our members. At the same time the Labour Party is failing to adopt policies which reflect our members’ interests. The Union therefore needs to adopt a more independent approach politically.

– why do many branches not see the GPF and/or Labour Link as resources to help them lobby and campaign?

– how can we increase regional and branch engagement with the General Political Fund?

– how can we further strengthen regional and local Labour Link organisation?

3. The Union makes it unnecessarily difficult for branches to access political fund resources – branches should have an automatic entitlement to some political fund resources each year. Members will not engage with UNISON Labour Link whilst they see the Labour Party pursuing policies which attack the interests of our members.

– what resources and support do UNISON reps need to engage members and organise them to take political action?

– what kind of political education should be included in core training for stewards and organising staff?

– should we develop short courses for lead activists and organising staff on labour movement history and contemporary political issues?

4. UNISON needs to change its culture to one that encourages campaigning away from a “top down” officer-led culture which seeks to restrict campaigning by branches. The history of the trade union movement should be central to trade union education.

– what do members, branches, and lead activists need or want to know about the union’s political work, and how would this best be communicated to them?

– how could union communications better promote transparency and understanding of the operations of the General Political Fund and

Labour Link?

– how could union communications better encourage engagement and participation by members and branches in the union’s political work?

5. The Union should implement Conference policy and monitor and report on the voting record of politicians associated with our Union. Members need to know whether the politicians who benefit by their association with our Union support our policies. Members in local branches should have a direct input into decisions about which politicians UNISON supports and works with.

– is there more we need to do to ensure that subscription and allocation procedures are transparent?

– is there more we can do to encourage the greatest possible participation in the two sections of the political fund?

6. Members should not be allocated into the Affiliated Political Fund unless they make a deliberate choice to pay into the Labour Party. Branches should have direct control over some of the General Political Fund which should be available to be spent in accordance with the decisions of quorate Branch or Branch Committee meetings. The Union has to face up to the fact that if the proportion of members choosing to pay into the Affiliated Fund falls much below the present proportion (one third) it will no longer be tenable to maintain that UNISON is affiliated to the Labour Party.

– are existing structures for the governance of the General Political Fund adequate to ensure transparency, accountability and engagement?

– how can we encourage a higher level of participation in Labour Link structures at branch, regional and national level?

– are there ways in which we can improve the accountability and responsiveness of both Labour Link and the GPF to wider union

structures at local, regional, devolved and national levels?

7. There should be a single-section political fund under the control of National Delegate Conference and the separate structures for each section of the fund should be abolished. The existing structures were designed, prior to vesting day in 1993, specifically to avoid transparency, accountability and engagement and cannot be reformed.

No comments: