Sunday, June 22, 2014

Unity after UNISON Conference

I will blog further, when I have time to be considered, about the events of last week at UNISON Conference. In many ways, this year our Conference has been overshadowed by events in the industrial struggle beyond the Conference chamber.

There were however important questions, for example in relation to branch funding, about which we had significant debates. There was also controversy around the decision to rule out of order a motion concerning violence against women.

This decision, overturned once and subsequently accepted by delegates, caused justifiable and understandable concern, expressed by many delegates (most notably my many women delegates who adopted the slogan "I am a woman, believe me" - a legitimate and appropriate form of reasonable protest).

No one can – of course – be criticised for what they said from the rostrum at our Conference by anyone who understands our Rule Book and the powers of our President under Rule P.7.2.

It appears that this self-evident observation has not prevented hasty expressions of intent to pursue, beyond Conference, arguments which do not need to be pursued in that way. It is, in particular, futile for us to encourage the use of social media if we are not big enough to accept the occasionally excessive or ill-informed criticism which is a feature of such media.

Those who comprehend what is going on around them and also appreciate the meaning of “unjustified discipline” and “victimisation” will be on the side of those of us who want to steer UNISON away from avoidable aggravation.

I have expressed concern before about formal action arising from a Conference contretemps. The last time that UNISON’s Greater London Regional Office was given its head in such circumstances things did not go well for our trade union.

I shall return from Conference to both a local and a national industrial dispute. UNISON has plenty to do. It does not need internal strife.

I myself have been the victim of online conduct which one could describe as bullying (long ago when sad souls ran the anonymous “Scandalfax” blog – but more recently if I wanted to be as sensitive as we are led to believe some colleagues are).

A trade union Conference is not a playground. I urge all colleagues to be calm and reflective and to avoid inviting internal conflict. Where political criticisms may have been expressed personally this has been regrettable and inappropriate – political criticisms themselves are not however inappropriate, nor are they are regrettable.


It would be a grave mistake if anyone were to imagine that any divisions amongst rank and file activists would in any way weaken the resistance to unnecessary injustice.

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