Monday, February 14, 2011

Facing up to the challenge?

Last Wednesday's Annual General Meeting of UNISON's Greater London Regional Council was, yet again, one of the largest gatherings of lay UNISON representatives other than at a national Conference.

The current leadership team were re-elected and I congratulate them and wish them well for UNISON's most challenging year. There was a mood of determination in the face of the current tidal wave of cuts and job losses, reflected in the unanimous agreement of a motion to go to UNISON National Delegate Conference on campaigning against cuts, passed with an amendment supporting industrial action.

As is now traditional there was an introspective debate on our structures which ended, from the point of view of the delegates from the Lambeth branch at least, in a "score draw" as the Council accepted our proposal to reduce the frequency of scheduled meetings from four to three but rejected our suggestion that the quorum be reduced from one third to one quarter of registered delegates.

Since it was 2005 when a Regional Council meeting other than the Annual General Meeting last attracted a quorum of delegates, I am worried that we may have missed an opportunity to make use of our Regional Council as a forum to focus anti-cuts campaigning in 2011.

I hope that delegates will turn up to the June Regional Council and to reporting on this blog that a quorate meeting will have taken forward our campaign in support of public services.

Worryingly, judging by the turnout in the elections, attendance at this year's AGM had dipped somewhat, from around 250 to around 200 voting delegates. Whether this reflects greater difficulties in getting time off, increased pressure of work in branches, or a degree of disengagement from the Union at Regional level I'm not clear.

All of us who hold leading positions in UNISON in London need to consider how we can make our lay structures more relevant and effective in meeting the challenges which 2011 has in store.

Twenty years ago I supported the proposed creation of UNISON because I believed that united action by public service workers was the best way to defend the interests of ourselves as workers and the public services we work to provide - and because I thought that a united public service union could deliver that action.

Now is the time to find out if we were right.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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