Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Three Companies Project - a missed opportunity

Today’s meeting of the Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) finally received a “lessons learned” report from the “Three Companies Project”. This was a project in which UNISON sought to build membership and organisation in three companies (Compass, Sodexho and Aramark) with the assistance of the US trade union the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) who, in their turn, hoped that their relationship with those companies US in t would benefit from our organising efforts in the UK .

It was five years ago that your blogger first expressed interest in the Three Companies Project, asking a few pointed questions (to one of which I did get a prompt response). The timing of the project unfortunately coincided with some controversy involving the SEIU but organising work nevertheless got underway. The end result of the project was that there was no clear benefit to the Union or the workers and no effective financial management of the project (leading to a massive unbudgeted spend, with expenditure incurred, and staff appointed, outside agreed procedures) – this was a consequence of the project having been initiated outside the NEC’s democratic structures for the lay governance of our Union.

Although I am reassured that similar mistakes could not easily be repeated, I think that all trade unions (as political organisations) are vulnerable to the pressure to cut corners in order to deliver what is perceived to be a political priority for the leadership. UNISON can ill afford to waste a million pounds (as we did years before on CareConnect Learning) and members of our NEC need to remain alert in order to scrutinise the conduct of officials.

It is to be hoped that officials never feel that they have to "whistleblow" about such misbehaviour in future.

But if anyone does I’m sure they’ll know what to do.

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