Thursday, July 04, 2013

A series of unfortunate events...?

I will get, promptly, to a proper report from today's meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) but first I need to comment upon the latest of a series of unfortunate events.
At the point today at which NEC members were travelling from the 9th and 1st floors to the ground floor of the UNISON Centre for an unanticipated run-off ballot in the election of NEC members to the National UNISON Labour Link Committee (an election in which your humble blogger was sadly not a winner), thirteen people spent an hour stuck in a lift.
The title of this blog post was suggested to me by one of the NEC members involved in this incident. It was unfortunate that this happened at all, and embarrassing to the Union that it happened on the day of an NEC meeting.
It was additionally embarrassing (I should imagine) that this happened on the day of the first full meeting of a new NEC following our biennial elections.
But, this was just the last in a series of unfortunate events (and that series of events help to explain why today's lift incident was even more embarrassing than might otherwise have been the case).
For the reason why so many people were in a lift travelling from the top to the bottom of the impressive erection of the Euston Road in the middle of a UNISON NEC was that we don't hold NEC meetings all together in one place.
We don't do that because the Ninth Floor of the UNISON Centre is not an accessible venue for all NEC members. So most NEC members meet at the top of the building, and a few participate (imperfectly) through a partial audio-visual link from the first floor.
We could meet - on the ground floor of the UNISON Centre - in a perfectly satisfactory venue accessible to all NEC members.
However, not only have successive Presidential Teams refused to consider any such relocation, repeated requests that the NEC be permitted at least to vote on where we should meet have been refused, most recently today.
Two years ago a UNISON NEC meeting took place on the ground floor of the UNISON Centre because of teething problems on the 9th floor - but since then the NEC has not been offered the opportunity to continue to meet in that entirely satisfactory venue, nor even the opportunity to vote on this.
So what was (perhaps) most unfortunate of all the series of unfortunate events was that UNISON NEC members were trapped in a lift precisely because they had not been given the opportunity even to vote on relocating their own meeting within their own building.
UNISON cannot be held responsible for the disgraceful approach implemented in our name (that an approach to making a "reasonable adjustment" which segregates the person for whom such an adjustment is made from the rest of the NEC is to be preferred to moving NEC meetings so that all members can participate equally).
UNISON cannot be held responsible for this disgraceful approach because the democratically elected ruling body of our trade union has had no opportunity to take such responsibility. However, our NEC can not deny responsibilty for allowing ourselves to be treated in this way.
Those of us who can no more stomach segregation in the name of "reasonable adjustment" than we would on grounds of race or gender (or any other reason) have had no opportunity to express our views within our trade union (even though we may be members of our Union's ruling NEC).
It will be yet another "unfortunate event" if this blatant breach of UNISON's proud commitment to equality has to be taken outside our trade union. However, those of us who believe in UNISON's values cannot permit a misplaced loyalty to those who claim to share that belief to get in the way of giving effect to our values.
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