Saturday, March 28, 2015

Priorities for UNISON members?

‎Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris SOC) will realise that I am not above linking back to an earlier post on this blog.

This is particularly the case when - moving on from this week's Local Government Special Conference - it is time to talk about our priorities for debate at this summer's Conferences.

As well as one National Executive Council, four Self-Organised Groups, the Retired Members' and Young Members' Committees and twelve Regional Councils, there are towards a thousand branches with a right to propose motions to our National Delegate Conference.

All in all it's amazing that there are not more than 117 motions and 28 Rule Amendments admitted to the agenda for our 2015 National Delegate Conference. This still represents, however, more business than our Conference will likely be able to get through.

That is what makes the process of prioritisation of the Conference agenda so important.‎ The NEC, Regions, Self-Organised Groups and Service Groups all have a say in prioritising agenda items. The Standing Orders Committee (NEC) compose the Conference agenda in order based upon prioritisation - and only those motions which attract at least some support in the prioritisation process that stand any chance of being debated at Conference.

Every UNISON member can - through their branch - influence their Region's priorities for Conference. Many branches don't participate, so the influence of those who do is commensurately greater.

Motions which sit on our agenda in the name of our NEC, a Self Organised Group, national Committee or Region will be bound to attract support in the prioritisation process from the body in the name of which they are on that agenda.

Therefore an intelligent approach to the prioritisation process on the part of branch activists does NOT entail prioritising the motions deemed most "important" by members. An intelligent approach requires the promotion of motions which might otherwise escape attention (and which cannot rely upon enthusiastic patronage from any part of our officialdom.)

Therefore UNISON activists should not encourage prioritisation of Conference motions because we wish to curry favour, or to enable the delivery of important speeches by key activists, or because we should be "seen to be" promoting discussion on key questions.

No. All that is trivial.

We should seek the prioritisation of motions which will not otherwise be prioritised in order to force debate about issues where a decision of our Conference might make a practical difference.

After all, it's quite laudable that UNISON has progressive policy positions on a wide range of domestic and international policies (and I support them all, and welcome that they put us to the left of the Labour Party) - but at the end of the day it makes little difference what we say about such matters compared to decisions about what UNISON itself will do.

I therefore offer the following suggestions for the prioritisation of Conference motions at National Delegate Conference;

Motion 106 Branch Funding
Motion 115 Unison General Secretary Election
Motion 114 Publication of a Branch Directory
Motion 116 Online Conference Database
Motion 108 Withdraw Support for the Tax Refund Company
Motion 15 Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre
Motion 22 Pay

These are just a few motions from amongst the many - and most branches will be able to express more priorities than are suggested here.

‎I'm not trying to give a comprehensive view about the entire Conference agenda.

I am neither a member of a Party which presumes to revolutionary leadership nor part of a "rank and file organisation" capable of even contemplating some collective discipline within the decision-making structures of our Union.

I'm just asking you to think about how you use the prioritisation process - and to consider using it to maximise opportunities for debate (rather than for the sort of "debate" in which no one disagrees).

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

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