Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Season's Greetings and Service Group Autonomy

I sent the following message to my many friends on UNISON's NEC yesterday;

"Dear Comrades and Colleagues,

Many NEC members traditionally use the opportunity of our December meeting to exchange greetings cards.

I thought that this year I would instead send an email urging you to think of Service Group autonomy this festive season.

Whilst looking for decorations in the loft I came upon a copy of our Instrument of Amalgamation.

The Instrument of Amalgamation between COHSE, NALGO and NUPE is a legal document which is rightly defined in Rule Q as having “brought the Union into being.”

The Instrument summarised the “principal effects” of the new UNISON Rule Book which was appended to it.

One of the things that the Instrument of Amalgamation picked out from our Rule Book was that “each Service Group shall hold a Conference as set out in the Rules.”

The relevant Rules are now those set out in Rule D.3.4 on pages 15 and 16 of the current Rule Book. In particular Rule D.3.4.5 states that delegates to the Annual Conference of a Service Group “shall be elected annually in accordance with a scheme to be drawn up by the Group’s Executive and approved by the Group Conference.”

This year – for the first time – our Development and Organisation Committee has decided to impose upon Service Groups a scheme of representation for branch delegates at their Conferences, citing Rule D.2.12.1 which gives the NEC the power to implement the principles of proportionality and fair representation throughout the Union.

The reason why this is being done now, in December 2009, when it has not been done in any of the preceding sixteen years, is for the administrative convenience of online registration of Conference delegates, and not because any particular concerns have been raised with the NEC about any Service Group Conference.

The extent of prior consultation by the office before this recommendation was put to the D&O Committee was with National Secretaries (i.e. officers consulted other officers before making a recommendation about the scheme of representation at lay Conferences which are the Rule Book responsibility of lay Service Group Executives).

The D&O Committee has agreed that this is permitted by Rule D.2.12.1. I urge you to read that Rule and Rule D.3.4.5 and make up your own mind.

Even if you think that the Rules would permit us, for the first time in sixteen years, to take away the authority of Service Groups to structure their Conferences, I would urge you to ask yourself whether this is either truly necessary or wise.

The NEC did not lose any votes at last year’s National Delegate Conference because lay activists believe that the Union is insufficiently centralised or “top-down”.

If we want to build trust and confidence throughout our Union we should seek to achieve change first of all by persuasion rather than imposition.

The approach of the D&O Committee on this particular question is deeply flawed and I would urge you not to support it.

I would also like to wish you all the best for the forthcoming holiday season.‬" ‪

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