Tuesday, April 02, 2013

In spring a UNISON activist's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of priorities for UNISON Conference

Tennyson claimed that "In spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love" (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174629).
This was clearly reactionary propoganda intended to distract us from the important business of prioritising motions for debate at UNISON's National Delegate Conference. 113 motions have thus far made it on to the Preliminary Agenda for our Conference in Liverpool in June (together with the eighteen Rule Amendments which will adorn our Thursday afternoon). 52 motions and three Rule Amendments fell at the first hurdle, having been ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) (though one or two may come back after an appeal). Not all of these motions will get debated though. This will depend upon the prioritisation process which is now upon us. I have sought to explain the process here before (http://jonrogers1963.blogspot.com/2008/03/prioritising-unison-conference.html?m=1) and won't repeat the explanation, both of the process and how (I believe) activists should engage with it, which I set out on that link. Though I will repeat the point that intelligent prioritisation is not so much about picking what are, on the face of it, the "most important issues" as about ensuring that other important issues don't slip off our agenda. So, here are some purely personal thoughts and suggestions about motions which I think are worthy of support in the prioritisation process. I will preface these suggestions with an observation about motions on branch funding. This is an important topic. Unless SOC depart from their past practice on such matters, they will automatically timetable the NEC motion 106, since it responds to a previous Conference instruction to the NEC. This motion will then (almost inevitably)be counterposed (by SOC, in a decision on "consequences") to motions 107, 108, 112 and 113 (bearing in mind the wording of the second and third paragraphs of motion 106), so that those other motions will only be debated if 106 falls. I think this means that the debate around branch funding will take place around Motion 106 and any amendments thereto which make it on to the Conference agenda - and that we can therefore put this to one side when considering Conference priorities. If other comrades think I've got that wrong I'd like to know, as it is vital that we restructure our trade union to cope with the fragmentation of public services which our current centralised structure has failed to prevent. This will be what happens to UNISON over the next decade and our national Centre will be a much smaller and more modest creature a decade from now. There are many motions which socialists might want to prioritise (Motion 47 for example is a thing of beauty and therefore a joy forever). However, we have to focus on a very few - and these are a dozen of my personal suggestions; Motion 42 Councillors Against the Cuts (as advertised on this blog) Motion 111 Election of Paid Officers (ditto) Motion 104 General Strike (because we need to continue the debate started at last year's TUC) Motion 64 Defending Trade Union Facility Time (because we have to) Motion 96 Opposing the Welfare Reform Act, Council Tax and Other Benefit Changes (an important addition to a vital debate) Motion 9 Democracy in Unison and the Right to Campaign in Ballots (a motion to rebut control freaks) Motion 86 Defending our Reproductive and Sexual Rights (does what it says on the tin) Motion 84 Defeating the English Defence League (ditto) Motion 93 Disabled People Against the Cuts (an important affirmation of support for a key campaigning group) Motion 36 National Action to Defend our Health Service (because we need it) Motion 38 Demise of the State Education System (because we need to fight it) Motion 78 Solidarity with South African Workers (because it's obvious) I'd be interested to know what other comrades think about this. As a rule, just as the left punches above its weight at Conference, we fail to punch our weight in the prioritisation process. (The sedge has withered at the lake, and no birds sing...)
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