Today's meeting of the Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee of the National Executive Council (NEC) of UNISON received an excellent and informative report reviewing lessons learned to date in switching members to paying their subscriptions from their salaries (DOCAS) to Direct Debit.
The attack upon how we collect the union subscriptions of 70% of our members is not the most important of the attacks in the (Anti) Trade Union Bill - that honour is reserved for the attack upon the right to strike (and the attack upon the political levy is also worthy of mention).
However, the assault upon DOCAS is an attack upon the functioning of our trade union, the rights of our members and our ability to organise effectively in defence of our interests. Today's report was therefore timely and appropriate.
The primary subject for the report was the work being done to move UNISON members in the National Probation Service on to Direct Debit, as the Government has withdrawn DOCAS in the Ministry of Justice with effect from the end of this month.
As at 15 September a majority of members had been signed up to Direct Debit - but very many had not. What works best is face to face contact with members but - particularly with such a scattered workforce - contact from UNISON Direct also has an important role to play.
The report also reported on international experience where Government's at state level in Australia and the United States have mounted similar legislative assaults. The organising response of the Australian trade unions appears to have been a more effective defence than the focus on campaigning of the US unions.
Your blogger was authoritatively corrected by the President when I expressed the view that the foresight of the D&O Committee meeting in May on this question had not been universally shared.
It turns out I was mistaken and everyone in the Union had always seen the likelihood of an attack on DOCAS and the necessity for an organising response to this threat alongside a campaign against hostile legislation.
Those in the North West Region who recollect our General Secretary telling them, shortly after the May D&O, that had he been advising the Committee he would have given different advice, are in the grip of a mass hysteria which has clouded their memory.
Those who told the London Regional Committee at around the same time that they couldn't imagine how the Government could legislate against DOCAS, and those who said that to prepare the transition to Direct Debit was to "run up the white flag" are no more than figments of my overactive imagination. (A letter received by one branch from a Senior Regional Official chastising them for preparing for the transition to Direct Debit must be an elaborate forgery).
Even the overwhelming rejection by Local Government Conference of the Lambeth Branch Emergency Motion (the essence of which the Union is now implementing) turns out to have been a daydream.
And anyone who perceived complacency in anything written by any of our officials (not least our General Secretary) has plainly been deluded.
Here's a correction (or is it a clarification).
Everyone always foresaw the likelihood that the Tory Government would attack DOCAS.
Everyone always knew that we should prepare an organising response to such an attack alongside our campaigning opposition to the Government.
Everyone has always agreed about this and everything is for the best in this best of all possible trade unions...
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.