Saturday, December 05, 2015
Loyalty is central to effective trade unionism - but different people have different understandings of loyalty.
A couple of weeks ago UNISON members in my own branch, working in libraries, gave a lesson in loyalty when they spontaneously took unofficial strike action in defence of their jobs and the service they work to provide.
As a lay union official I did not endorse unofficial action, but as a worker I admired the solidarity of colleagues showing loyalty to each other. That loyalty and solidarity is the essential foundation of trade unionism.
Sadly, as trade unions can grow into large and heirarchical organisations so trade unionists can confuse the proper loyalty we owe to our fellow workers with a misplaced loyalty to the senior employees of the union as an organisation.
It is that misplaced loyalty which has driven my trade union in the wrong direction for years now.
Otherwise intelligent people confuse dissent with disloyalty (and so do other people).
Many employees at the UNISON Centre (and many NEC members) confuse loyalty to our Union with loyalty to its (current) General Secretary, just as many staff and activists in our Greater London Region wrongly thought that by doing the will of Regional managers they were serving the interests of the Union.
No good union activist respects people because of the position they hold (rather than the work they do) - and anyone whose first reaction to a powerful individual is anything other than to oppose them is hardly likely to be a strong fighter for our class.
In fact dissent is the highest form of loyalty in a democratic organisation, and the best of UNISON is to be found in its dissidents, its troublemakers and its whistleblowers.
UNISON stands at a crossroads. We could be loyal to ourselves and rescue our trade union as an effective fighting force for our members - or we could put first obedience to those who ought really to be our servants (in which case UNISON will whither and die).
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.