Sunday, February 14, 2010

A lecture from Uncle Joe

For those with time on their hands to follow the sectarian obsessions of a small group of full-timers in the Union, there is more to enjoy online now.

I cannot but be reminded of the historical origins of such criticism.

Away from the feigned unanimity of the UNISON machine members in branches will be debating to whom they should give a nomination in the election for General Secretary, as well as dealing with all the other issues confronting our members.

We don't need negative campaigning but we do need to challenge candidates - and in particular the incumbent, whose record deserves scrutiny. UNISON members have now been promised an election - and elections with only one candidate (leading to a coronation) aren't in the best traditions of our movement!


Anonymous said...

Hello Jon,

I had to write again because following your recent blogging I find that I disagree with your analysis AND your choice of material on the General Secretary election so much that I could not but write.

First, I am appalled that you have chosen to share the retirement observations of a Regional Officer with the world. Whether he has provided these to you or not, they were clearly intended for his colleagues and thus effectively a private communication. In terms of his communication for activists, I am not at all happy that you have decided to help him share his criticisms with the rest of the world. If this special pleading had to be circulated, surely you have back channels which mean you don’t have to share it with the rest of the world?

The shame of it is that his main complaint seems he was not allowed to carry on being a Perry Mason pursuing individual casework – something which as far as I can see had to change because it was simply an unsustainable way of working. Just because this chap wasn’t keen on getting out there organising members does not mean he shouldn’t be expected to share the weight of change. Haven’t a huge number of other UNISON staff been expected to shoulder their share of such change? Of course there may issues to be resolved, but failing to raise those matters with your line manager, or a more senior manager, or even your union and then come bleating on as you walk out the door is unforgiveable.

This is clearly an opportunistic attempt by an individual officer to seek to influence debate around the General Secretary election to try and raise issues he admits he himself has failed to do before his retirement. I find it little short of cowardly that he has taken this route. And you have aided him.

Secondly, I think it is a bit rich to take exception to those backing Dave. I simply cannot understand how you seem to be tarring the wide range of support for Dave Prentis as Stalinist.

If that’s the kind of stuff that passes for debate on the left these days, you can keep it. If that’s the kind of backing Paul Holmes is prepared to accept, I cannot in all conscience support him. I was prepared to accept up to a point the fact that a coalition of people and organisations were necessary to get him on the ballot paper and deliver a turnout, but I saw you as one of the more moderate – and I hoped influential - of that grouping. It seems I was wrong and that if you are using your influence, it is all to the bad.

On a personal level, I wish you well, Jon – we need committed people, but we need committed people who are not so wrong-headed that they seek to disparage and damage the union of which they are a member, and especially those elected to high office.

Mike King

Kit Leary said...

I would only have to echo Jon and Leigh's points about the strange nature of the UNISON Active website (even if they highlight a campaign from my UNISON branch). For a group of people who loudly proclaim that they represent the majority of UNISON members, they sure seem shy about revealing their idenitity. Maybe they learned from my experience when, on another UNISON London blog, I was pillioried as being "dishonest" by people who were clearly hiding behind fake identities. When you're subjected to such hypocritical abuse, it makes you skeptical about doing something which should come naturally to trade union activists - sticking your head above the parapet and saying what you think. I like to be accountable, and UNISON Active is keen on demanding it from those they pillory. However, they do not seem so keen to make themselves accountable. And here's me thinking that accountability is a two way street. D'oh! How could I be so stupid?

But, on the other hand, I can't help but feel that, in a way, the UNISON Active blog might have a point between a united "progressive left" around Prentis and a "factionalised" Left.

To be honest, the entire election is deeply depressing. We have three nominally left candidates. The unity of the Left from the NEC elections has dissolved and instead of having a common platform which we can unite around, we project an image of being disunited and more concerned about factional advantage, at a time when it is fairly easy for us to present a clear, dynamic and straightforward alternative to Prentis' programme.

I dispair at times, I really do.