Sunday, March 22, 2015

Composite A - lets have a "unified and positive climate" and pretend our leaders didn't totally screw up our pay dispute?

UNISON’s Special Local Government Conference is now just two days away. It’s only the second time in UNISON’s history that a Special Conference has arisen from a branch requisition.
This occurred because the gross mismanagement  of the 2014 NJC pay dispute led us into the most catastrophic defeat in the history of national industrial relations in local government.
You might think that the UNISON leadership would approach this Conference with some common sense and humility.
But it would appear that would be to overestimate both the intellect and character of those concerned.
The cynical manipulation which led to the sham consultation exercise which achieved the predetermined outcome of “reluctant acceptance” of a further decline in living standards now provides the cover for those with an interest in trying to ensure that there is no proper accounting for the inadequacy of our national leadership.
The incompetent author of Motion 44 has been rescued by the compositing of that motion into what is now Composite A, which remains a wordy and poorly drafted failure to account for the inadequacy of the leadership of our last pay disaster, and an unconvincing shopping list of hopes and wishes for the future.
The authors of the fiasco which led us to this Special Conference have the cheek to say that the Conference should create a “unified and positive climate” for the next pay campaign. Under our current leadership we can have a “unified climate” or we can have a “positive climate” for winning higher pay. To have both is simply impossible.
The Salford and Manchester branches deserve credit for trying to enforce a little honesty upon the disingenuous Composite A, making the simple point that the conduct of the consultation exercise breached existing Conference policy (and correcting the falsehood that sectors have autonomy from Service Group Conference).
Even with the sensible amendment though, Composite A remains a pitiable attempt at distraction and self-justification from a leadership which, lacking self-respect deserves no respect from any other quarter.
We will never raise the density of our membership, nor increase the likelihood that we can take effective action until we are led by those who deserve and inspire confidence and respect – and we shall not have such leadership until we, at a rank and file level, can build the organisation necessary to achieve this.
Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Blogger) will realise that I am not full of admiration for the majority of the National Joint Council (NJC) Committee, nor for the majority on the Service Group Executive (SGE) who have supported their approach. I am not. Indeed, I think that these Committees are acting in breach of UNISON Rules by their failure to promote our members’ interests.
However – as a long standing member of our National Executive Council (NEC) I recognise a truth often concealed within our Union – which is that all the supposedly autonomous parts of our Union are mutually interdependent, and that the failures of one sector or service group depend upon the conduct of the wider union. 
It is the NEC – and those who guide it from the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road – who have set the tone within our trade union over recent years. Since the last General Election we have led only occasional, cautious and tentative opposition to the incessant attacks upon our members, retreating on each occasion as soon as we could claim some concessions (regardless of whether such claims were convincing).
UNISON’s conduct has been the conduct of an organisation led by people who know that they must make a show of opposition but are fearful to provoke an adversary they perceive as more powerful. It has also been the conduct of an organisation led by people for whom the continuity and financial stability of the organisation itself is the most important consideration.

Composite A on Tuesday’s agenda is a shameful piece of work, but the shame is not only that of the sector Committee, Region and branch prepared to put their names to it. If we want a different outcome from future pay disputes we need a change of approach – and a change of leadership which goes beyond the Local Government Service Group.

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