Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mutual animosity

I'm now playing catch up with reports from UNISON Conference, avoiding some of the main issues, which are more than adequately covered elsewhere as UNISON's online presence continues to improve.

(Although there remain some amusing contradictions. On Monday, Local Government Conference Delegates were exhorted to use Twitter. On Tuesday delegates at National Delegate Conference were instructed not to tweet from the Conference Hall!)

Official coverage of Conference rightly focuses on key debates, and is necessarily positive in tone. Since Conference is our Parliament, not a rally, there are always also other tales to tell.

Yesterday morning a new delegate from Lambeth unsuccesfully moved an amendment to strengthen a worthy motion on mutuals from the West Midlands Region, by clarifying a preference for public delivery of public services.

The opposition to the amendment, which carried Conference with it, was founded on the misconception that the amendment would have "tied the hands" of branches who faced no option but to negotiate around the creation of mutuals.

This wilful, yet effective, misreading of the amendment really reflected the feeling in some quarters, expressed by a delegate from the Newham branch at Local Government Conference, that mutuals may be a "lesser evil" which we should embrace.

This is exactly where we began the debate about ALMOs, with some national officials, believing Council housing to be doomed, tried to "sell" them to UNISON members.

ALMOs were and are a half-way house to privatisation, and this is the threat posed by mutuals. We need to resist all attempts to remove services from the public sector - whilst of course engaging with changes where they cannot be prevented to protect the interests of our members and organise workers whoever employs them.

And, just as with ALMOs, in a year or two the position Lambeth lost this year will be the policy of our Conference and our NEC.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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