Thursday, February 19, 2015

UNISON NEC - the other report

The link above is to the official report of yesterday's meeting of UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC). 

It rightly focuses on the two most important topics which we discussed.

First, the coming General Election is perhaps the most important in a generation offering as it does a choice between the intensification or (modest) amelioration ‎of the current assault upon working people, our trade unions and our public services. The choice is simple for trade unionists. We need the Tories out and - everywhere other than a handful of constituencies - this means we must encourage a Labour vote.

Secondly, the current ("TTIP") trade negotiations represent a moment of choice between democracy and corporate sovereignty which may shape the future for another generation. UNISON has played a significant role, as an important part of the global trade union movement, in shaping and mobilising opposition to the corporate agenda being promoted by the USA and the Eurocrats.

In both of these defining struggles of our time UNISON stands on the side of our people against the ruling class.

Whilst many of us may query how firmly we have stood our ground in this Parliament (retreating too soon over pensions in 2011 and thereafter forever failing adequately to sustain mobilisation over pay), right here and now, UNISON is on our side in the run up to the General Election and in trying to influence the trade negotiations. It is right that we should highlight this now, whatever other criticisms we may have.

The brief "official" report can never cover the whole story of an NEC meeting - and that may be the reason why a lengthy discussion about the Government's attack upon civil service trade unionism (and related issues) is referred to only most indirectly.

There was a substantial amount of (at times) heated discussion, much of which was considered and informed (although there are, regrettably, always dunderheads prepared to denounce even the most measured criticism as disloyalty). All participants in this discussion shared an opposition to the Government's withdrawal of "DOCAS" (deduction of contributions at source) in the civil service - a transparent device to bankrupt the PCS union, which has been among the most trenchant critics of this most reactionary Government.

‎However, some NEC members were concerned that PCS might not feel supported by UNISON, having expressed concerns about UNISON seeking to organise in the civil service. I was one of those members.

Other NEC members were concerned that some PCS officials were making unjustified and intemperate criticisms of UNISON at meetings of PCS members, and that this was hardly conducive to unity in opposition to the Government.

I will blog further comment about this debate in due course, since it raises questions both about the approach of the two trade unions and about the boundaries and demarcation lines between union spheres of interest (which are raised also by the attempts of a teaching union to organise support staff).

These are important questions which call for serious discussion - but there must be clarity that the main enemy is the Tory Government and that the entire trade union movement should rally round the civil service trade unions who face a particular threat to their very existence at this time.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

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