Saturday, April 23, 2016
UNISON and SERTUC - time to re-think
News reaches your humble blogger (from an Annual General Meeting) that one of the three unsuccessful candidates from amongst the 19 candidates contesting 16 seats on the Executive of the Southern and Eastern Region of the Trades Union Congress (SERTUC) was one of the UNISON nominees. It is astonishing that UNISON should not be able to secure the election of one of our candidates to a Regional TUC. We are the largest trade union in the Region.
This outcome shames UNISON and demonstrates the folly of our decision to nominate a candidate who plainly could not command the respect of other trade unionists. Our nominated candidate (not having been elected to the Executive) is ineligible to stand for any other position to which we might have nominated them.
I draw two conclusions from this defeat for UNISON. First, we should not conclude that all trade unionists are as tolerant of utter disrespect for lay trade union activists as are those in UNISON who are desperately trying to deny that we face a crisis. Secondly, UNISON activists in the Eastern, South East and London Regions need to get together and work out how we ensure that our future representatives in SERTUC are drawn exclusively from elected lay UNISON members, accountable to UNISON members in a way that paid officials cannot be.
UNISON could be the greatest of trade unions. Our members have a breadth of experience without parallel in our movement. Within our ranks we have members who know more about the law than any lawyer our movement can employ, we have members who have a greater understanding of how to run elections than anyone accredited to act as an "independent scrutineer" - and we have people with a range of skills wider than any other organisation in civil society.
And yet we seek to subordinate these members to a small fraction of those whom we employ (with our members' union subscriptions).
There are many employees of our trade union who do not seek to usurp control from the lay members to whom it belongs as they devote their professional expertise to the service of those members - I am proud and happy to be a member of the Executive which employs these good people.
Then there are others who perceive some activists as "hostile" and who would prefer the support of "sympathetic employers". I regret very much that our trade union pays the wages of those people. I think they would do best now to plan their retirement and I know that they shall never know peace or comfort in their roles in UNISON now that their treachery to our class is so well advertised.
I should add that I make no allegation against our General Secretary.
The worst critic of our current union leadership would not accuse UNISON (and certainly not in the Greater London Region) of being a meritocracy.
The result of the elections to the SERTUC Executive today demonstrates clearly the folly of permitting our trade union to be run by reactionary authoritarians who lack the capacity and capability to provide our class with the leadership we need and deserve.
Or, as your blogger believes, it will always be a mistake to cede leadership of our workers' movement to those who are not workers. (And at least if we are going to we should cede that leadership to people who have the intellect and charisma to accept it).
SERTUC took the right decision today.
UNISON members need to learn how to treat paid officials who show contempt for lay activists - and that goes way beyond one sad sorry arrogant individual.
Our trade union belongs to our members.
Not our employees.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.