Monday, January 19, 2015
Unite the rank and file in the UNISON NEC elections to reclaim the union
It's commonplace on "the left" to remark that our trade union organising must be about more than just electing individuals to positions.
And of course it must.
What our union needs most of all is effective networking between activists to maximise support for those at the sharp end (Barnet branch spring to mind just now).
However, it isn't irrelevant who is elected to our Union's leading Committees - and (as nominations for the NEC elections are now open) we need to focus upon securing nominations for socialist candidates.
For me that does mean supporting comrades with whom I have profound political disagreements (as they do with me). I don't share the antipathy to the Labour Party exhibited by my friends in the Socialist Party (and I think they are wrong to keep pursuing the mirage of a "new workers' party" after two decades of dismal failure). Nor do I support the politics of comrades who retain their membership of the Socialist Workers Party (some of whose leadership might be more at home supporting the new "Justice for Men and Boys" party than the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition).
However, we shouldn't vote, in union elections, simply on the basis of Party labels - and there are many good activists in each of those socialist organisations whom I would support as good trade unionists notwithstanding political differences.
What we need is more elected lay activists prepared to challenge and hold to account our national leadership and officials. My years of service on the UNISON NEC have taught me that the majority of my fellow NEC members have consistently misunderstood what it is to be loyal to the Union.
The majority of NEC members plainly believe that such loyalty requires uncritical support for the leadership. In fact loyalty to our members demands constant criticism of our leaders - as the Special Conference of our Local Government Service Group in a few weeks will again demonstrate.
It was our leadership, after all, who - a little over three years ago - took the critical decision to withdraw from the dispute over public service pensions without a victory. That decision, and its consequences, have shaped the remainder of this Parliament (and in many ways account for the utter failure of trade union opposition to the pay freeze). NEC members who excused, applauded and apologised for that decision have little to offer our future.
Those candidates seeking nominations to stand in the NEC elections under the banner of "reclaim the union" are the choice of those of us who seek to challenge, change and improve UNISON. That is why I stand amongst them.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.