Monday, November 15, 2010

Personal report of the D&O Committee 8 November

The Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee of the NEC met on 8 November.

This is a personal report I have sent today to London branches. It is not an official document nor is it intended to be a comprehensive report of everything which was discussed. I am always happy to respond to questions about reports, or to attend meetings of branches or Branch Committees (subject to notice and availability). You can contact me at j.rogers@unison.co.uk or on 07957505571.

Apologies to diligent readers of this blog who will notice some similarity between aspects of this report and some earlier posts...

Recruitment

This meeting commenced with a report on recruitment, which repeated the good news, from the October NEC, that we are on track to exceed our target of 1.75% membership growth.

In Greater London, where our target was only 0.5% (because we have the highest turnover rate of any Region) we are currently heading for 2.4% annual growth in 2010.

Learning and Organising

The Committee received a report updating NEC member on training activity. In the year to 30 September, 3,755 new shop stewards were appointed nationally and 2,634 stewards completed induction training.

In order to protect the availability of public funding for shop stewards’ training the previous three day introductory course and two day “handling grievances and disciplinaries” course have been brought together into a new Organising Stewards course.

From September 2011 it is likely that public funding for trade union training will be further restricted. As an indicative figure, should UNISON have to meet the current costs of the 1,728 reps who attended ten day TUC courses in 2009 this could cost us approximately £375,000. The Committee will be considering this further.

RMS Update

The Committee received a regular update on progress with the development of the RMS. The bulk email facility for which many branches are waiting will now be piloted by the end of the year with a view to full rollout early in 2011.

Changes are also being made to the facility for members to amend their details online on the website. This will shortly be piloted to Branch Secretaries.

Enhancements are also planned to enable the RMS better to describe members’ job descriptions which will assist the Union when balloting members for action.

Communications Workshop on New Structures

The Committee received a report of a workshop which had taken place in July to discuss improving communications with UNISON members in the context of our structure of sectors and Service Groups.

If any branch wants a copy of the report please get in touch.

National Delegate Conference – Representation and Participation

The Committee was presented with an analysis of attendance at last year’s National Delegate Conference which suggested a declining proportion of delegates are low paid and part time workers.

The Committee agreed that the same scheme of representation for branch delegations will apply at National Delegate Conference 2011 as applied this year, with one amendment that Regional Committees upholding appeals from branches not sending a young delegate should first of all consult their Regional Young Members’ Forum.

Branches under Regional Supervision

The D&O Committee receives regular reports on branches under Regional Supervision.

In Greater London this includes the Bromley, Greenwich and Newham Branches. Bromley and Greenwich were taken into Regional Supervision in the spring, following the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings taken against their former Branch Secretaries. The Tenant Services Authority branch, which was under Regional Supervision, has been closed as the employer has been closed by the Coalition Government.

In relation to Newham branch, which has been in administration rather longer, the Chair gave the Committee news which was somewhat more reassuring than the written report from the Region which was before the Committee.

Whilst the Regional report did not offer any immediate prospect of restoration of normality, the Chair made clear that it was the expectation that the Branch would leave regional supervision soon and would hold an AGM in the normal way in the New Year.

I will continue to press for the restoration of all branches in the Region to normal control by their own members in accordance with our Rule Book. If members in any of the branches concerned would like more information please get in touch.

Certification Officer cases

The Committee received a report of two recent cases involving UNISON heard by the Certification Officer, one of which (Searle –v- UNISON) was within our Region.

In this case the only declarations which the Certification Officer made were in respect of issues relating to the annual election of shop stewards where the Union had already conceded error and taken steps to put things right.

National Executive Council election procedures

The Committee endorsed revised election procedures for the forthcoming biennial elections to our NEC. The nominations will open on 11 January and close on 18 February. Voting will run from 11 April to 13 May. Results will be announced on 7 June. The new NEC will take office at the close of June's National Delegate Conference.

For the first time the regulations define as a candidate someone who has submitted their candidate's form. This should make it easier for branches who want to interview candidates (or their representatives) before deciding on a nomination.

A couple of other changes show us learning from experience. The regulations now make clear that a candidate must retain full membership throughout the entire election period in order to retain eligibility. The regulations also alert branches of the need - if holding a social event to which one candidate is invited - to be sure to invite other candidates.

Interpretation of Rule

The Committee agreed to interpret UNISON’s Rules to clarify that NEC members sitting on Service Group Executives do have a vote in the election for Chair of the Service Group (albeit they are not eligible to be a candidate).

Scheme for the Establishment and Restructuring of Branches

The Committee endorsed a revised version of the scheme governing the establishment and restructuring of UNISON Branches.

Whereas ten years or more ago questions were frequently raised about branches like Bromley, which happily organised members in more than one Service Group, the new guidelines turn our historic practice on its head to positively welcome cross service-group branches (which have become an inevitability since the creation of the Community Service Group).
Indeed one of the models for the future is of a "Community" branch, in which all members working in public service provision in a town or city, whether in local government, health, education or the voluntary sector, might be members of the same branch, with separate Committees for its members in each service group.

There are already examples of branches which are, as a matter of practical necessity, a world away from the model of a "lead employer branch" which was the basis on which branches from our "former partner unions" (COHSE, NALGO and NUPE) were merged fourteen years ago.

That model was then already anachronistic to some extent given the extent of privatisation under the Tories. Almost all UNISON branches are multi-employer branches and have been since they were created. Hundreds of our branches already now organise members across more than one Service Group and it makes sense that this option is not ruled out in branch restructurings.

However the best feature of the revised guidance is that it stresses that there a range of models and does not try to impose a "one size fits all" branch structure. I did express reservations about how the guidelines deal with the (hopefully exceptional) circumstances in which there is no clear consensus about how to restructure a branch (or branches).

I would sooner have seen a more prescriptive approach to member decisionmaking in those circumstances (a mandatory ballot). In practice I hope that common sense and democracy would prevail should disagreements arise.

If any branch would like a copy of the guidelines endorsed by the Committee, please get in touch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jon wrote on 15th November:

"The D&O Committee receives regular reports on branches under Regional Supervision.

In Greater London this includes the Bromley, Greenwich and Newham Branches. Bromley and Greenwich were taken into Regional Supervision in the spring, following the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings taken against their former Branch Secretaries. The Tenant Services Authority branch, which was under Regional Supervision, has been closed as the employer has been closed by the Coalition Government."

The news that the TSA has been closed by the government will certainly come as surprise to those of us who work there! The TSA has not closed and continues to function until April 2012 at least, when its functions will transfer to the Homes and Communities Agency.

After the banning of the branch secretary, the raid on our UNISON branch, the decision by unelected union officers to cancel the AGM, and the government's announcement to transfer our functions, we were forced to switch to a union that would support us rather than cripple us during a crucial period when members needed protection more than ever.

The TSA UNISON branch had 75 members when we were raided. When the UNISON reps moved to Unite, the members followed the reps. There are now reportedly just 7 UNISON members left (compared tp almost 130 in Unite, which now represents about 62% of the bargaining group).

UNISON destroyed the TSA branch with the vicious attack on its lead activitists. The regional officer sent a series of letters criticising the ex-Reps and not surprisingly, the members decided to vote with their feet.

The TSA has not closed down - it remains a fully functioning organisation, and because of the work of the ex-UNISON reps, it is also a highly unionised workplace too. This is despite, not because of, the UNISON bureaucracy.