For anyone else contemplating stepping aside from onerous trade union responsibilities after a quarter of a century, my advice is to give yourself some space and not to try to pay too much detailed attention to what is going on in relation to matters which are no longer your responsibility.
However, it is good to see that my friends and comrades on the left of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) are making some headway in trying to drive UNISON forward – in spite of the deliberate stuffing of NEC Committees with those in the (very) narrow majority of the NEC who support the failing leadership of the Union.
The official report of this week’s UNISON NEC meeting tells you very little (as ever) – apart from the fact that UNISON is starting a campaign to beat the Government’s pay freeze (as it has been every year for at least the last five years). However, behind the scenes it seems that critical thinkers on the left of the NEC successfully pushed the NEC to take a vote on a proposition (albeit one that was amended on the intervention of the President).
Having spent fourteen years on that NEC I can assure you, dear reader, that getting a vote taken at an NEC meeting on anything that hadn’t been scripted in advance by officials is a very significant achievement – and the fact that the NEC could not itself call for indicative ballots for strike action over pay, but could only encourage Service Group Executives (SGEs) to take such initiatives is a consequence of UNISON’s long established structure.
Whilst anyone waiting for the leadership of UNISON to lead a fight to smash the pay freeze would be ill advised to hold their breath, reports from this week’s meeting show that there is still life within UNISON – and branches should be submitting motions through their Service Groups to keep up the pressure placed upon the leadership as a result of the discussion at the NEC.
If the trade unions are to experience the same sort of surge of growth and interest which the Labour Party has seen in the recent past then trade union leaders – at every level – need to show confidence and a combative spirit to members and potential members.
Good luck to those trying to achieve this.