Sunday, October 12, 2014

Local Government Pay and the UNISON General Secretary election

Astute readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Paying-Attention) will have picked up that I think that local government workers should reject the insulting and inadequate pay proposals from the local government employers.

Should those who will now try to persuade us to accept this rubbish prevail, and should local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to wait until the 2016/17 pay year to fight again for decent pay that will be after two elections.

It will be after the 2015 General Election (a factor which some of our more cynical activists consider not to be irrelevant). It will also be after the next UNISON General Secretary election.

The latter seems less relevant to the casual observer, but it would be wrong to underestimate the collective self-obsession of those for whom the General Secretary election is more important than the General Election.

UNISON lacks a healthy democratic internal culture when it comes to the election of our General Secretary. This was expressed in its most extreme form at our National Executive Council in January 2010 when a (now) former UNISON activist seriously expressed the view that we should have an election with only one candidate.

However, if lay activists who are considered likely contenders for the position face a degree of personal and political hostility, paid officials suspected of ambition to exercise their Rule book right to seek nomination for General Secretary face worse.

It’s ironic that I was (quite properly) asked to (and did) withdraw critical comments about our local government pay negotiators at last week’s meeting of our National Executive Council (NEC) whereas other leading members of our union are making fairly targeted criticisms – and not only in private.

The difference is that my (somewhat intemperate) criticisms were of an approach to leadership which is the collective responsibility of the UNISON hierarchy, whereas others are making personal criticisms of an individual, plainly motivated by the perception that they could consider seeking nominations to stand as General Secretary.


In making sharp criticisms of the conduct of the pay negotiations which have led local government workers to our current predicament, UNISON activists in particular need to be aware of other agendas on Euston Road.

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