Sunday, April 07, 2013

The future of our unions is in our branches

What matters is what matters materially.

Within our trade unions, the allocation of our limited resources is always a vital question.

Over the decades of my union activity I have witnessed a centralisation of power and resources in our union.

At the same time there has been a decentralisation (indeed, a fragmentation) of bargaining and representation.

So, as we have empowered our national (and regional) officials so they have become increasingly irrelevant to our members.

To be brutally frank, there are increasingly strong grounds to question what it is, exactly, that our national trade unions are "for". National pay "bargaining" has delivered nothing of substance for several years. Whether it ever will is now an open question.

Equally, as our Regional structures have become less and less likely to facilitate industrial or legal action, so they have drifted away from mattering to our members.

At the same time, wherever locally our unions can bring together courage, competence and good fortune, we are still able to deliver for our members (or, rather, to enable them to use their trade unionism to deliver for themselves).

I draw two lessons from this state of affairs.

First, we need to raise our game nationally. Our priority in UNISON ought not to be our recruitment campaign but rather our pay campaign. UNISON can still be the Union we wanted when we made it twenty years ago. If we want to grow we must fight.

Secondly, we have to be serious about changing our Union to meet changing circumstances. We have to understand that the future of our Union is not in a prestigious HQ, nor in our Regional offices.

A twenty first century trade union will live or die in our branches - and that is where we need to focus our attention and resources.

Those who draw from this that there is a need to amend Motion 106 to UNISON National Delegate Conference win the prize for paying attention...

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear Jon - I sometimes wonder if we are working for the same goals as those sat in the region. All that seems to be their target is recruitment and bolstering labour link I can say whilst the first is important its certainly not my branches top priority currently