Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lessons of the UNISON Service Group Executive elections



The summary results of the biennial elections to UNISON’s Service Group Executives are now available online.

Service Group Executives (SGEs) have responsibility under Rule for overseeing the negotiations about pay and conditions of service which are (for most of our members) the fundamental purpose of a trade union. In some ways our SGEs are more important bodies than even our esteemed National Executive Council (NEC).

I’ll blog in due course about the turnout and the detail of the results but am initially struck by what these elections tell us about the rude health (or otherwise) of our lay democracy in UNISON. Here is a summary of the results, focusing on how many seats remain vacant, and how many of the other seats are held by someone who was elected unopposed.

Service Group Executive
Elected in a contest
Elected unopposed
Vacant seats (and %age of total)
Total number of directly elected seats
Community
0
9
18 (67%)
27
Energy
1
9
4 (29%)
14
Health Care
10
20
6 (17%)
36
Higher Education
3
14
15 (47%)
32
Local Government
10
17
8 (23%)
35
Police and Justice
3
16
8 (30%)
27
Water, Environment and Transport
0
16
4 (20%)
20
Total
27
101
63 (33%)
191

There are a significant proportion of vacant seats, for which no one was even nominated, on all our Service Group Executives. The proportion ranges from one sixth in Health Care up to two thirds in the Community Service Group.Overall, one in three of the 191 directly elected seats on a UNISON Service Group Executive are vacant. 

Of the 128 UNISON members who hold the other two thirds of the directly elected seats on our seven Service Group Executives only 27 (21%) faced a contested election, with the great majority (79%) and a majority in every service group having been elected unopposed.

Following the catastrophic decline in the turnout in last year’s election for General Secretary this is another loud warning bell that member engagement and participation in the democratic structures of our trade union is waning. This is a subject which I hope that lay activists will discuss at an important fringe meeting in Brighton next Tuesday evening.

I should make two points in closing. First, in writing this blog post I hope that I have refrained from directly or indirectly making, causing, inciting or otherwise contributing to any posting which may be perceived by any member of (UNISON) staff to be critical of them.

Secondly, as a UNISON member in the Local Government Service Group in the Greater London Region I would like to congratulate John McLoughlin, Sue Plain and Caroline Firmin on winning the three contested seats in the only Regional constituency of any Service Group in which there were three contests. These are positive results for all those who believe in lay democracy and effective trade unionism.

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