Friday, January 15, 2010

Renewing a mandate?

Whilst I was busy yesterday with work in the branch the report for next week's special meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council was circulated.

It contains nothing that could not have been predicted.

The authors of the report seem to believe that the combined effect of our Rules, statute law and the General Secretary's contract of employment mean that Dave Prentis could choose to remain in office until retirement (which would mean an election for his successor would not take place until 2012 after one or more new Assistant General Secretary posts may have been created and appointed to...).

However, the authors don't seem that confident as they also think that if the General Secretary decides to carry on without an election then the NEC should endorse this. I am not persuaded that the Rule Book is so unambiguous that there is no need for the NEC to use its power to interpret the rules if it wants to achieve this end.

However Dave may decide that he needs to "renew his mandate" by seeking re-election (or he may decide to retire now) and the NEC will learn of this at the start of our meeting on Wednesday.

Should an election take place the Presidential Team are recommending a snap election starting virtually immediately with the NEC deciding its nomination (if any) on 10 February.

This recommendation is based upon the idea that a General Secretary election must not run through Conference week (an idea with no basis in the Rule Book or indeed anywhere else, but the sort of idea that will probably persuade the majority of NEC members to do as they are told).

The report acknowledges that there is another option - an election for General Secretary starting in July. This would be the most obviously reasonable and democratic course of action (and is therefore not the course of action being recommended to the NEC).

I am awaiting comments from London branches but my initial view is that I think it would be absurd if there were no election until 2012 and an outrageous move to run a General Secretary election through the period of a General Election in which UNISON needs to make our voice heard.

In deciding whether or not to seek re-election our General Secretary will no doubt remember who it was who pointed out (in criticising last week's failed coup within the Parliamentary Labour Party) that "neither Hewitt nor Hoon are standing for re-election, so they won't have to live with the consequences of what they have just done."

The election that matters to our members in 2010 is the General Election, not the General Secretary election, and I think we should focus on that now and run the election for General Secretary after we know which Government we are having to deal with.

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