The front page story of two of the four Conference bulletins produced for (rather than by) the National Executive Council (NEC) were devoted to attacks on a motion which never even got debated - Motion 107.
Opposition to this motion had included reference to cynical blog posts written late at night, so readers of this blog will no doubt take this post with a pinch of the salt which you will have scattered in a circle around yourself before reading this...
So what was Motion 107 about?
It sought to increase the proportion of UNISON's subscription income which goes to our branches from 23.5% to 25.5%, giving the increment directly only to those branches who have taken on the administration of our membership database.
This would have moved no more than £3.4 Million out of the Centre and to the branches. It provoked not just fillibustering but flattery, threats and procedural innovations. Perhaps if (or I should say when) UNISON Conference gets to vote on the allocation of funding between branches and the Centre it's pretty much inevitable we shall opt for some greater decentralisation?
Why is this so?
Partly it's that collective bargaining has been increasingly decentralised as our national trade union has proven incapable of defending much more than the shell of national bargaining.
Partly it's that our branches are facing up to organising a fragmenting workforce as our national trade union has proven insufficiently strong to prevent this fragmentation.
Partly it's that our branches face additional accommodation and staffing costs as our national trade union has been found wanting in defending trade union facilities.
All of these weaknesses of our national trade union flow (most recently) from the premature abandonment of the fight to defend our pensions and from its debilitating consequences, including those for local government pay this year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, the roots of the decentralisation of employee relations in public services are deeper than the events of the past two years. It seems to be unavoidable that our national trade union has decreasing relevance to the interests of our members.
It follows that those who care for the future of our trade union will want to try to find an accommodation with those who, quite reasonably and responsibly, supported Motion 107.
Sometimes a motion that isn't even debated can be the beginning of a result.
But if you've read this far, you already knew that...
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