Friday, March 20, 2015
The decline and fall of our annual Service Group Conference?
I note with regret that there are fewer motions on the Preliminary Agenda for our two day Local Government Service Group Conference in June than have been submitted to be discussed in four hours of Conference time next Tuesday.
The 42 motions on the agenda (a number which at least suggests that someone has the answer) include 11 from Regions, 8 from the Service Group Executive, 8 from National Self-Organised Groups, 6 from National Sector Committees and just 9 from 7 of our hundreds of local government branches.
I admit my share of the blame as a branch activist for having focused on the Special Conference as far as the Service Group is concerned and therefore omitting to propose any motions to June's Local Government Conference (although in mitigation I will say that Lambeth branch has made several helpful contributions to the agenda for this year's National Delegate Conference, for all of which I am sure we can expect the eager and grateful support of the National Executive Council...)
It may well be that, in the same way that the gravitational pull of Jupiter prevented the formation of a planet in the asteroid belt, the proximity of the Special Conference has pulled concern away from the Annual Service Group Conference - but I think this has just exaggerated and exacerbated an underlying tendency.
The pressure on branch activists from redundancies, outsourcing and attacks on conditions of service, in the context of attacks on facility time, make it harder to devote time to the relative luxury of national policy making.
At the same time, when the tragically inept leadership of our most important pay dispute illustrates so clearly that, under its current leadership, our national Union can only be at best an irrelevance to the pay and conditions of our members in local government, it seems almost insane to devote time to making policies to be implemented by the ineffectual phantoms haunting the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road.
It is sad but true that, as an experienced Branch Secretary, I expect nothing from the official structures of our Service Group beyond the branch other than the administration of individual casework - and my expectation is not disappointed.
Having said all of that, it's time for self-criticism (and criticism of friends and comrades - some of whom may even read this blog).
If we do not use the democratic structures of our own Union we will lose them - and find ourselves in an even worse state than we are now.
We can start by writing strengthening amendments to the various worthy but wishy washy items on the Preliminary Agenda for June's Local Government Conference - and sharpening our pencils to write the Emergency Motions we know we'll need on May 8th.
It's up to rank and file democrats in UNISON to save the democracy of the largest Union in the largest organised workforce in the UK economy.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.