Sunday, April 18, 2010

NEC report

This is the text of my personal report of NEC member to London branches concerning the Development and Organisation Committee on 13 April and the National Executive Council on 14 April.

Development and Organisation Committee

Last Tuesday’s Committee meeting was to deal with Conference business only. Therefore questions which I had wanted to ask about Regional Supervision of Branches, and about recent decisions of the Certification Officer, will await the meeting on 12 May.

First we considered Rule Amendments. We were told that the NEC had fallen foul of a glitch in the new online system for submission of Rule Amendments - and hence one NEC Rule Amendment had not found its way onto the Preliminary Agenda.

The NEC was recommended to oppose a series of Rule Amendments from North Yorkshire Police Branch which sought to relate UNISON subscriptions to basic pay only, rather than to superannuable earnings as at present. I supported the Committee on this point.

I was alone at the Committee in supporting the proposals from the Kirklees and Bolton branches to impose a 24 month time limit on bans from holding office under our disciplinary rules. Other colleagues felt that such a restriction would only make it more likely that panels would expel members facing disciplinary sanction, although there was some support for considering a (longer) maximum period next year. The NEC will oppose these proposals at Conference.

The Committee did not take a view on Lambeth's proposal to introduce disciplinary warnings into Schedule D pending legal advice. Of course the SOC have already admitted that Amendment on to the agenda.

There were only a few motions relevant to D&O, but we had an interesting debate in relation to one - Motion 8 from Worcestershire County instructing the NEC to publish a directory of branch contact details. The officers were clearly unhappy with this and - although we were not being recommended to oppose yesterday - the arguments against were being rehearsed.

However a wide range of Committee members with divergent views were united in our support for the publication of an accurate and up to date Branch Directory which is a useful tool for research in support of bargaining and to refer members to the right place for advice. I hope the Branch Directory will be published before Conference so that the purpose of the motion can be achieved without the need to take up Conference time - however, it might still be wise to prioritise Motion 8 (about which the NEC has still to take a policy position).

NEC meeting

The NEC meeting on Wednesday 14 April was chaired by Angela Lynes, Vice-President, as the President was absent on UNISON business. Angela opened the meeting by announcing the forthcoming retirement (in July) of Bill Gilby, Head of the Executive Office. Bill is a diligent and effective official who handles the administration of the NEC with patience and good humour and will be greatly missed.

The first item of formal business was a report on the absence from the Preliminary Agenda of an NEC Amendment to Rule I.3. (dealing with disciplinary action against members of the British National Party). The Head of the Executive Office was asked to give this report and took personal responsibility for failing to have clicked “submit” in the online Conference system. It was reported that the NEC would appeal to the SOC to include the Rule Amendment on the Final Agenda on the basis that the Amendment had been set up on the online system and that the Minutes of the NEC confirmed that it should have been submitted.

The General Secretary intervened to suggest that NEC members might wish to encourage Regional Convenors to lobby members of the SOC to admit this item on to the Final Agenda for Conference. This is clearly a matter for the SOC.

The NEC went on to consider policy on Motions and proposed Amendments. As ever most motions are supported and I shall note here only those motions from branches in our Region which are not being supported, so that branches are aware of where there may be controversy at Conference (and can take this into account in the prioritisation process).

Motion 10 from Greenwich is opposed on the basis that it requires unnecessary work which can be subsumed within the joint Region/Branch Assessment process.

Motion 22 from Tower Hamlets is opposed unless amended by an NEC amendment which deletes an instruction to put this item on the TUC agenda. The NEC generally opposes Conference motions which seek to instruct the TUC delegation in this way.

Motions 45 (from LFEPA), 46 (from Ealing) and 48 (from our Region) will also all be opposed unless broadly similar NEC amendments are agreed. These seek to modify the approach to working with other trade unions in campaigns to defend the public sector.

Motion 53 from Havering (on joint working the PCS) will be opposed unless an NEC amendment is agreed. The NEC amendment makes some additions of points of detail (which can be used by the mover of the amendment to present it in a positive light) whilst removing reference to work with the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group.

The NEC has not yet taken a policy position on Motion 89 from Tower Hamlets which deals with the victimisation of union activists.

Motions 107 from the Voluntary Organisations Branch and 108 from Hammersmith and Fulham (concerning anti-BNP campaigns) will both be opposed unless NEC amendments are agreed. In both cases the amendments insert reference to “Searchlight” in motions and – in the case of Motion 107 also requires prior consultation with Regions about support for events.

The NEC has not yet taken a policy position on Motion 119 from SOAS Branch on the Equality Act, nor on Motion 121 from Hammersmith and Fulham on “Labour and the Black Community.”

The NEC also considered its position on Rule Amendments, which was largely in line with the report above from the Development and Organisation Committee. A draft of the NEC report to Conference was also considered, and the NEC agreed to prioritise its own motions to Conference as it normally does.

Conference Prioritisation

Branches have an opportunity to express support for motions in the prioritisation process. One consideration which branches may wish to take into account is that motions which are supported by the NEC will, if not taken for debate at Conference be referred to the NEC who can be expected to support them. Where motions have been opposed by the NEC and are not taken at Conference they will be referred to the NEC who will oppose them and they will fall.

Bearing in mind that our Conference is the supreme government of our Union (in accordance with Rule D.1.1) branches may feel that it is particularly important for Conference to take a decision (for or against) motions which the NEC opposes (or may be expected to oppose).

Branches may wish to consider therefore prioritising for debate some of the following (bearing in mind that the Region will prioritise Motion 48);

Motion 53 (Joint Working with the Public and Commercial Services Union);

Motion 89 (Victimisation of Union Activists);

Motion 121 (Labour and the Black Community);

Motion 8 (Publication of National Directory of Branch Details)

I hasten to add that these are personal views only – the important thing is that as many branches as possible respond to the circular from Regional Office about prioritisation, so that the order of business at Conference reflects the priorities of our members (which may not be the same as the priorities of the NEC - or indeed the opinions of any NEC member!)

If any London Branch would like further information about NEC policy on any motions, or the text of any NEC amendments, please let me know.

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