Friday, September 07, 2012

The General Council and the General Strike

One of the burdens borne by our leaders is the responsibility of determining the policy of the General Council of the TUC on motions submitted to Congress.

Motion 5 from the stalwarts of the Prison Officers Association (POA) (the one TUC affiliate whose right to strike is repeatedly called into question) has caused some consternation, with a split vote in which UNISON abstained.

Motion 5 calls for our movement to "lead from the front against this uncaring Government" with campaigns "including the consideration and practicalities of a General Strike."

As vague as this form of words is, I can't imagine it ever getting past the Standing Orders Committee at UNISON Conference, since, on a good day, in the right light, and from certain angles, it might be taken to imply support for unlawful industrial action.

I understand why UNISON delegates (and others) abstained at the General Council (which split 16-16 on whether to support Motion 5). It's not unreasonable to say that UNISON policy is made through UNISON's structures and not on the hoof by our General Council members.

We will, however, have to vote one way or another at Congress and, bearing in mind both that Congress has no authority to instruct affiliates and that a motion says what it actually says (not what its movers say they mean for example) I can see nothing to oppose in Motion 5.

The POA are right. Our movement should "lead from the front" and we should be considering a General Strike. The politics of UNISON's decision on this motion are simple. Are we going to take the side of forthright criticism of the Government or we to be seen to be for moderating and limiting opposition?

We shall see.

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