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Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Report of the UNISON Development and Organisation Committee

This is the report of the UNISON NEC Development and Organisation Committee 2 December 2008 which I have sent to London UNISON branches.

This is a personal report of today’s meeting of the Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee. I will deal with only some major items in this report. The meeting commenced with brief reports on recruitment and on learning activity.

Far Right political parties and trade unions

We then received an update on Clause 18 of the Employment Bill (as was) dealing with the ability of trade unions to exclude active members of far right organisations from membership. The unsatisfactory provisions of the Act will come into force on 1 April next and UNISON is working with Searchlight and the TUC to consider a legal challenge.

UNISON has also considered what action to take in relation to the recent publication of a list of alleged members of the British National Party. UNISON has had legal advice that we could lawfully cross reference our membership lists with this list but could not take any action simply by virtue of their being on the list. However any activity by members of far right organisations could lead to disciplinary action by the Union – new guidance will be issued to branches on this point. The Union has had legal advice that we could lawfully strengthen Rule I.3 which deals with this issue.

Service Group Structures

We then moved on to debate a report on future Service Group structures. Sue Highton introduced the paper on behalf of Jane Carolan. This paper had been circulated less than one working day in advance of the meeting. Frank Hont, North West Regional Secretary presented the proposals in detail.

I expressed reservations about being asked to endorse such major proposals with so little opportunity to consider the documentation. I was very critical of the way in which the proposals empowered the Service Group Liaison Committee, which in my view suffers a serious democratic deficit.

Some other members expressed anger at my comments that many parts of our Union are not lay led and that often the lay leadership is led by the nose by officials. I subsequently clarified that I had not intended to offend any individual.

Kate Ahrens, representing the Health Service Group made the point that the current proposals do not provide for the collective accountability of sector committees to any collective body of members such as a Conference. Service Group Conferences would, under the proposals being considered, have no useful role in relation to bargaining.

Glenn Kelly pointed out on behalf of the local government group that the largest service group representing the majority of our members opposed the scale of change being proposed. The Health Service Group also did not support this. He pointed out that Rule Changes will be required and that it would be unlikely that Conference would support changes which went against the views of our largest groups of members.

Paul Glover from Energy opposed the proposals insofar as the affected members in the current Energy Service Group. He felt that the proposals before the Committee did not reflect the outcome of consultation.

Bob Oram from the North West Region spoke in defence of the proposals but only to criticise those who had expressed reservations and concerns. He felt that this had been discussed for five years and we should get on and agree with it.

John Jones, representing Water and Environment echoed the concerns which had been expressed by the representative from Energy.

At the conclusion of this important debate the Committee did not agree to endorse the report as had been recommended but instead, on the recommendation of the Chair (Chris Tansley) that the report would now go out for further consultation.

Subject to discussion at tomorrow’s meeting of the full NEC, the report will be circulated to all branches. If any Greater London branch would like a copy (or indeed a copy of any other report considered at the Committee meeting) please get in touch.

RMS Update

The Committee received a detailed presentation on developments in relation to the RMS, in particular long awaited developments in relation to matching up our membership database with DOCAS information from the employers.

Election processes and timetable

The Committee agreed a report on the procedures for the forthcoming NEC elections. This will now go to tomorrow’s NEC meeting and I will therefore cover it in my report from that meeting.

Collective responsibility

The Committee was told that the Union had sought legal advice on whether individual NEC members should be permitted to attend Conference as delegates from branches. The Committee resolved to agree a report, which had been tabled that morning, recommending that tomorrow’s NEC rule that NEC members may not attend Conference in any other capacity. I was among a minority who opposed this at the meeting and will oppose it again tomorrow at the NEC as I consider it unnecessary.

Branches under Regional supervision

The Committee received a written report on the cases of branches under Regional supervision. I questioned the accuracy of comments in the report about the Newham local government branch. The Chair ruled that the meeting should move on and not discuss the report in detail. Pete Gaskin from the Eastern Region expressed dissatisfaction that it had not been possible for Committee members to raise issues about matters covered in this report.

I will be in touch with an NEC report later in the week. I hope to see delegates from branches at the Regional Council meeting on 9 December 2008.


Anonymous said...

Are you saying, in terms of the structures, that most of the service groups objected to the proposals presented to the d&o committee yet they are going out for further consultation....?! What a farce!!

Anonymous said...

Where was the proof about the legal advice in terms of the NEC? I can't see that this is correct, as it would prevent a memebr who happened to be on the NEC from attending their own union's conference as an elected/ designated rep of their own Branch.....Which means that NEC reps are treated differently to the other 1.3m members!