Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The dog that didn't bark

Today, at ULU in Malet Street, dogs did not bark and caravans failed to move on as the UNISON Greater London Regional Council failed to attract a quorum.

I see that this has attracted some online comment – some balanced and some not.

It is, of course, absurd that we had an inquorate meeting at what is the busiest time for our trade union in twenty years (at least!) We had hardly more than half the 87 delegates we needed.

I’m sorry to have to say that, whereas the lack of a quorum at every meeting of our Regional Council (apart from the AGM) since 2005 could have been attributable to apathy and an inability to inspire members, the lack of a quorum today was the obvious result of a deliberate decision for which our Regional Council officers are accountable (if not responsible).

At the recent – excellent and useful – briefing for representatives from London branches, it was announced that the next briefing would be on the afternoon of Wednesday 25 May. Had that announcement been carried through, given that there were 150 odd branch representatives at the last briefing, we would likely have had a quorate meeting of our Regional Council. I assumed that this is what the Regional leadership wanted, because we can all see that the challenges facing our trade union are unprecedented.

However, by the time we got to the Regional Committee we were informed that the briefing had been moved to Wednesday 1 June (during half term week). The justification for this change (availability of speakers) was risible. We do not need outside speakers for any briefing or meeting at the present time. A Union of 1.3 Million members has, within our own ranks, every skill we need to respond to the challenges we face. It might be nice to invite Ken Livingstone to speak to us, but it adds little to the work we have to do (and all sensible UNISON members need no persuasion or encouragement to work for Ken's election!)

Amongst the Rules breached by those accountable for the decision to reverse the coordination of the branch briefing and the Regional Council are Rules B.2.1, B.2.2, and B.2.5. Regular readers of this blog, Sid and Doris Left-Oppositionist, will recall previous criticism of our Regional Office which is entirely supported and reinforced by this regrettable episode.

When our problem was a reactionary New Labour Government which let our movement down it was merely an irritation that decisions about the most important trade union in the most important city in the country were in the hands of those with a bizarre obsession rooted in some of the nastier history of the former Soviet Union (and its satellites).

Now that our problem is that the Tories are set on destroying the Welfare State, we really cannot tolerate the deliberate undermining of our democratic structures. UNISON members need us to take our union seriously and treat it with the respect that our Regional Council officers failed to show when they agreed to move the branch briefing away from the date on which it would have ensured a quorum at the Regional Council.

UNISON branches in London must ensure that they send delegates to the October Regional Council - and submit motions by the deadline of Thursday 8 September. Branch briefings are all very well (indeed they are very useful). However, we also need meetings at Regional level at which lay representatives, elected by ordinary members, set policy and determine actions on behalf of our members. Briefings at which we are told what to do are no substitute for meetings at which we decide what to do.

An important amendment was made to Rule B.2.2 at National Delegate Conference 1994 and we need continually to assert that ours is a member-led union. I hope that those who take decisions in the UNISON Greater London Region have a change of heart before that is imposed upon them by the circumstances we now face.

1 comment:

nick venedi said...

Hi Jon,

I don't understand why delegates can not ask questions and why the Chair did not want to allow this? Is it a rule?

I can appreciate that people were angry because of this but it was not, on balance, right to walk out when a TUC speaker was just about to start her speech on a very important issue and campaign that I know the organised left supports. It didn't look good and it wasn't fair on her.