Tuesday, March 09, 2010

No explanation for attack on union democracy

As one of the Unison NEC members who (on the specific advice of a senior national official) takes seriously my responsibility to scrutinise the actions of union officials, I have been asking questions about the actions last Friday of Unison staff in Bromley and Greenwich.

Although the pesky questions of an NEC member are not worthy of response, our Regional Secretary has now written to all branches in London to explain that the Bromley, Greenwich and Tenant Services Authority branches have been taken under Regional supervision.

We are informed that the decision was taken under rule D2.1 and Rule G8.3.3. The first of these is just the general power of the NEC to take any action (subject to the Rules and Conference policy) and - since actions such as the cancellation of a branch Annual General Meeting breach the Rules - it is the latter Rule which really matters.

Rule G8.3.3 authorises a visit to a branch by an officer where (in the opinion of the General or Regional Secretary) it appears that a branch is not functioning effectively. It is in fact this Rule under which "Regional supervision" takes place.

I will blog in more detail about the uses and abuses of this Rule, but wish now to draw attention to a serious dilemma for Unison.

Up until last week, these three branches were not under Regional supervision. Therefore, up until last week, neither the General nor Regional Secretary had formed the view that any of these branches were "not functioning effectively" - but now they have formed that view.

What can have changed?

Well, up until last week each of the three branches had a Branch Secretary, elected according to rule, who faced discipline by the Union. Last week all three Branch Secretaries were banned from holding office.

So, whilst these branches were the responsibility of elected officers facing disciplinary action there was no problem and no need for Regional supervision, but - as soon as disciplinary action took effect and the officers who had been found to have breached our Rules were out of the way - then, and only then the branches were suddenly deemed not to be functioning effectively and to require Regional supervision.

If these branches did not require supervision two weeks ago they most certainly do not now.

This is all quite as nonsensical as it seems.

I think a certain arrogance from those who exercise power is to be expected (if never welcomed) but that the mixture of such arrogance with such foolishness leaves our Union looking really really daft (for further information on "really really daft" in relation to this and other issues see http://www.workers.org.uk/).

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


Anonymous said...

The official cover story is the NEC approved the action, at which NEC meeting was that discussion had?

Anonymous said...

Jon you said:
"Branches are put under Regional supervision at the request of the Regional Secretary and with the approval of the Chair of the NEC Development and Organisation Committee (acting on behalf of the Committee to whom the NEC has delegate this authority)."

Presumably the Regional Secretary made the request of the Chair of the Development and Organisation Committee.

If the Chair then agreed to the Regional Supervision, I cannot see how any rules were broken.

I can see you don't like the decision. It is fine to disagree and I'm sure you will make your views known. That's only right and proper.

But from reading your posts no this matter there is a very strong implication that our paid staff broke our rules. If the Chair's approval was sought and agreed then the paid officials haven't broken any rules and the implication in your posts are very unfair, if not potentially libellous.

In fact I would go so far as to say if the Chair of the Dev and Org committee approved the regional supervision, then as NEC employed staff the staff had no choice but to take the branches into supervision otherwise they would be ignoring an instruction from the NEC, which would be a very serious breach of our democratic structures.

Anonymous said...

Thanks John for your comments on the Greenwich Branch. Greenwich is the biggest Branch in London and we have just been subject to the worst week in our history. Officers have no control, the phone has a block on it so only Officials can take messages from our members off it. The locks were changed and the Aministrator can no longer open post or have access to the membership. We have been told that there will be NO meetings for a long time. No Executive Committee, no Branch meetings. No Democracy. Because the Union walked in before the auditors signed off our accounts we have no delegates to Conference and this seemed to be of some amusement to the Regional Officer concerned until it was pointed out to him that Sara and Kaz were the delegates anyway and they are both gone. There was no need for this. This has been a vindictive attack by unpaid officials who would have loved to have done this nearly 3 years ago. The Greenwich Branch was a well run Branch with Stewards and Officers dedicated to their members now people are leaving and resigning all over the place. I feel totally let down by UNISON. I feel ashamed and I am also shocked at how far our Regional secretary has gone to get rid of our elected Officials. I am no longer a member of UNISON and I am relieved that I can sleep at night knowing I will never have to see these people again.