Tuesday, March 24, 2015

After today - Prioritise Motion 106 to National Delegate Conference

The decisions of today's Special Local Government Conference create a lot of further work. Our Service Group Executive (SGE) and our National Joint Council (NJC) Committee (which is accountable to our Service Group Conference) will both have to act on the decisions we have taken - and so shall we in our branches.

However, the factors that brought us into the hideous glass monstrosity of the QEII Conference Centre were many and varied and there is more for us to do if we are to make our Union fit for the future than simply what we decided today.

The catastrophic failure of the 2014 pay campaign was a manifestation of the inadequacy of our national leadership of our national pay negotiations. Today was an assertion, by lay activists from branches, of our authority and our dissatisfaction at this failure.

This failure arose against the background of the massive decentralisation which has taken place in our Union this century. Our branches have to negotiate more, administer more and deal with far more employers than we did before.

We need to respond to this by providing adequate resourcing to our branches. We know this. Our National Delegate Conference has tiptoed around this question for the past couple of years.

Of course this is controversial. To increase the proportion of our resources which goes to branches feels like a threat to the financial interests of those whose livelihoods depend upon the financial stability of the organisation.

Therefore our officials highlight (not wrongly) the reserves held by some of our branches. ‎The NEC Finance Committee last year tried to come up with a formula to assist branches with the demands we face without reducing resources to the Centre.

For a variety of reasons a majority could not be found on the floor of Conference. Branches having reserves are understandably reluctant to see their funding reduced because of what they may feel has been their past prudence. Others - particularly north of Hadrian's wall - were unwilling to acquiesce in the pragmatic willingness of the NEC to composite with those who seek a shift of resources to branches.

The upshot of last year's stalemate has been the failure of the NEC to put any proposal on branch funding before this year's National Delegate Conference. 

Happily for those who care about our future, the Lambeth branch does have a motion admitted ‎to the Conference agenda which addresses the need to devolve resources to branch level, giving the NEC a clear steer to bring back detailed proposals to achieve this aim.

That motion is Motion 106 and - if it is to be discussed at June's Conference it will need support in the pre-Conference prioritisation process.

Today we began to see what can be achieved when those who put the interests of our lay members first work together. We need to use the ability which we have found that we have to reshape UNISON to face the challenges of the present and the future.

Prioritising Motion 106 may not be "the" next step - but I suggest that it is one of them.

Every branch should be consulted by their Region as part of the prioritisation process. This is a process which has often in the past served the interests of those who ride the Howdah of the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road.

We can turn the prioritisation process to serve the interests of our members - and therefore we should prioritise Motion 106.

(Regular readers of this blog - Sid and Doris Blogger - will be reassured to know that I'll blog other recommendations for prioritisation soon.)

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UNISON Special Conference - reasons to be cheerful

‎Today, delegates at UNISON's Special Local Government Conference took a small but necessary step in the direction of a member-led union which fights for our members.

The headline decision, taken when the Conference voted by 60 per cent to 40 per cent to support Composite C, was to submit a claim for a pay rise this April.

That was controversial because we accepted the appalling two year pay proposals following a consultative ballot in which members had accepted those proposals (because they were told that they were "the best that could be achieved by negotiation" and that the only alternative was "all out strike action.")

We were told that the employers had already intimated that they would refuse to reopen negotiations. We were told that we weren't being "realistic" and that we should stand by the decision taken in the consultative ballot (even though by this point the Conference had already agreed - with the support of the Service Group Executive - motions which were sharply critical of how that had been organised, pointing out that it had been undertaken in breach of our previously agreed procedures).

Conference delegates refused to be swayed by such unconvincing arguments and has now set UNISON on a course to campaign for better pay both now and in the future, rather than only in the future.

This is but a small step, with much work now to do.‎ It is, however, a step in the right direction.

Credit is due to the Manchester branch for initiating the Special Conference, and to every branch who supported the call. Also to every branch who proposed motions for debate, and to lay members of the Standing Orders Committee for facilitating that debate.

Every delegate who spoke - and every delegate who got up to move business along (or was prepared to do so) shares responsibility for this positive development.

Today was a good day for trade unionism and for democracy. We shall need many more such days if we are to reverse the retreat and defeat of the recent past - and there is much hard work ahead.

However, I think we're allowed half an hour to be cheerful just now.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Support Composite C at the Special Local Government Conference

I was very pleased this evening to attend the excellent eve-of-Special-Conference fringe meeting hosted by the Camden branch.

The attendance at the fringe meeting was (in spite of the fact that so many delegates are not yet in London) more than enough to call for a card vote.

But we won't.

Unless and until we must.

We won't waste time.

There was an overwhelming mood to get through Conference business (without stifling debate) in order to ensure that delegates can have their say on the one Composite motion opposed by the Service Group Executive.

It would be a mistake to waste Conference time challenging the foolish decision to take a ninety minute lunch break out of an already foreshortened Conference.

It would be equally unwise to take time to point out that Composite A (the "get the leadership out of jail free" Composite) ought not to be on the agenda because its major component part (Motion 44) was incompetent in the first place.

Such challenges will take up Conference time without any realistic hope of a positive outcome, whereas there is genuine uncertainty about the outcome of substantive debates on policy.

We have little time.

We have much to do.

Comrades with good political points to make must make them briefly.

We are not going to the Special Conference to listen to speeches. We are there to make policy.

I have every confidence in the ability of rank and file activists to make good arguments with brevity and wit.

If we listen to a hundred good speeches but fail to agree Composite C we will have achieved very little.

The audience tomorrow is not the entirety of our membership, it is a small subset of the leading activists in our local government branches.

It is unlikely that the greatest of speeches tomorrow will win new adherents to socialism, or recruits to any organisation.

There is no significant controversy on the order of business ahead of Composite C.

If we debate Composite C delegates must be prepared to call for a card vote.

For, win or lose, we must know who was with us and who opposed having a worthwhile trade union (and a card vote is more likely to produce the result which supporters of Composite C seek).

Delegates must be prepared to move "the question be put" ruthlessly and without consideration for the desire of other delegates to make valid and important points.

And other delegates must reflect upon why they were sent to London tomorrow - and support such moves.

We are a trade union, not a debating society.

We need to show the same discipline on Conference floor tomorrow that we would hope for on a picket line.

And we must ensure that every UNISON member in local government can know how their delegates voted on the key question of whether we seek to resist the capitulation on local government pay.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Composite A - lets have a "unified and positive climate" and pretend our leaders didn't totally screw up our pay dispute?

UNISON’s Special Local Government Conference is now just two days away. It’s only the second time in UNISON’s history that a Special Conference has arisen from a branch requisition.
This occurred because the gross mismanagement  of the 2014 NJC pay dispute led us into the most catastrophic defeat in the history of national industrial relations in local government.
You might think that the UNISON leadership would approach this Conference with some common sense and humility.
But it would appear that would be to overestimate both the intellect and character of those concerned.
The cynical manipulation which led to the sham consultation exercise which achieved the predetermined outcome of “reluctant acceptance” of a further decline in living standards now provides the cover for those with an interest in trying to ensure that there is no proper accounting for the inadequacy of our national leadership.
The incompetent author of Motion 44 has been rescued by the compositing of that motion into what is now Composite A, which remains a wordy and poorly drafted failure to account for the inadequacy of the leadership of our last pay disaster, and an unconvincing shopping list of hopes and wishes for the future.
The authors of the fiasco which led us to this Special Conference have the cheek to say that the Conference should create a “unified and positive climate” for the next pay campaign. Under our current leadership we can have a “unified climate” or we can have a “positive climate” for winning higher pay. To have both is simply impossible.
The Salford and Manchester branches deserve credit for trying to enforce a little honesty upon the disingenuous Composite A, making the simple point that the conduct of the consultation exercise breached existing Conference policy (and correcting the falsehood that sectors have autonomy from Service Group Conference).
Even with the sensible amendment though, Composite A remains a pitiable attempt at distraction and self-justification from a leadership which, lacking self-respect deserves no respect from any other quarter.
We will never raise the density of our membership, nor increase the likelihood that we can take effective action until we are led by those who deserve and inspire confidence and respect – and we shall not have such leadership until we, at a rank and file level, can build the organisation necessary to achieve this.
Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Blogger) will realise that I am not full of admiration for the majority of the National Joint Council (NJC) Committee, nor for the majority on the Service Group Executive (SGE) who have supported their approach. I am not. Indeed, I think that these Committees are acting in breach of UNISON Rules by their failure to promote our members’ interests.
However – as a long standing member of our National Executive Council (NEC) I recognise a truth often concealed within our Union – which is that all the supposedly autonomous parts of our Union are mutually interdependent, and that the failures of one sector or service group depend upon the conduct of the wider union. 
It is the NEC – and those who guide it from the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road – who have set the tone within our trade union over recent years. Since the last General Election we have led only occasional, cautious and tentative opposition to the incessant attacks upon our members, retreating on each occasion as soon as we could claim some concessions (regardless of whether such claims were convincing).
UNISON’s conduct has been the conduct of an organisation led by people who know that they must make a show of opposition but are fearful to provoke an adversary they perceive as more powerful. It has also been the conduct of an organisation led by people for whom the continuity and financial stability of the organisation itself is the most important consideration.

Composite A on Tuesday’s agenda is a shameful piece of work, but the shame is not only that of the sector Committee, Region and branch prepared to put their names to it. If we want a different outcome from future pay disputes we need a change of approach – and a change of leadership which goes beyond the Local Government Service Group.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The decline and fall of our annual Service Group Conference?

‎I note with regret that there are fewer motions on the Preliminary Agenda for our two day Local Government Service Group Conference in June than have been submitted to be discussed in four hours of Conference time next Tuesday.

The 42 motions on the agenda (a number which at least suggests that someone has the answer) include 11 from Regions, 8 from the Service Group Executive, 8 from National Self-Organised Groups, 6 from National Sector Committees and just 9 from 7 of our hundreds of local government branches. 

I admit my share of the blame as a branch activist for having focused on the Special Conference as far as the Service Group is concerned and therefore omitting to propose any motions to June's Local Government Conference (although in mitigation I will say that Lambeth branch has made several helpful contributions to the agenda for this year's National Delegate Conference‎, for all of which I am sure we can expect the eager and grateful support of the National Executive Council...)

It may well be that, in the same way that the gravitational pull of Jupiter prevented the formation of a planet in the asteroid belt, the proximity of the Special Conference has pulled concern away from the Annual Service Group Conference - but I think this has just exaggerated and exacerbated an underlying tendency.

The pressure on branch activists from redundancies, outsourcing and attacks on conditions of service, in the context of attacks on facility time, make it harder to devote time to the relative luxury of national policy making.

At the same time, when the tragically inept leadership of our most important pay dispute illustrates so clearly that, under its current leadership, our national Union can only be at best an irrelevance to the ‎pay and conditions of our members in local government, it seems almost insane to devote time to making policies to be implemented by the ineffectual phantoms haunting the Great White Elephant of the Euston Road.

It is sad but true that, as an experienced Branch Secretary, I expect nothing from the official structures of our Service Group beyond the branch other than the administration of individual casework - and my expectation is not disappointed.

Having said all of that, it's time for self-criticism (and criticism of friends and comrades - some of whom may even read this blog).

If we do not use the democratic structures of our own Union we will lose them - and find ourselves in an even worse state than we are now. 

We can start by writing strengthening amendments to the various worthy but wishy washy items on the Preliminary Agenda for June's Local Government Conference - and sharpening our pencils to write the Emergency Motions we know we'll need on May 8th.

It's up to rank and file democrats in UNISON to save the democracy of the largest Union in the largest organised workforce in the UK economy.

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Trade Unions and the law - as in UNITE so in UNISON?

Len McCluskey is right that unions must be able to fight for workers even if it means breaking bad laws - see his article in the Guardian reporting an important decision of UNITE's Executive;

http://gu.com/p/46zxh

The General Secretary of our sister union, UNITE, makes a compelling normative case for the moral and political right of trade unionists - and trade unions - to defy unjust laws, a debate which will become far more pressing if May does not bring us the change of Government we need.

There is an equally compelling objective case to be made by observing our own history as well as contemporary comparisons across the globe. 

Wherever - and whenever - employers exploit workers, workers will try to organise and our organisations will be trade unions. Our movement can be restrained, submerged, outlawed or neutralised through incorporation but none of these tactics on the part of our adversaries can extinguish the organisation of working people.

McCluskey ‎correctly foresees that, if legal restrictions so inhibit our ability to organise as effectively to neutralise our ability to organise and protect our people, we will reach a point at which genuine trade unions - and genuine trade unionists - will have to put the organisation of workers above compliance with unjust laws.

This is a truly frightening prospect, one which threatens the jobs and livelihoods of activists and staff, the financial security and legal standing of our trade unions and the stability of employee relations (such as there is) in organised sectors of the economy. It's not shameful if individuals feel the weight of their mortgages, debts and domestic responsibilities when considering whether they want to be latter day Tolpuddle martyrs.

However, this is a perfectly possible future - and one which might not be far away.

Could we even have this debate in UNISON?

I'm afraid not.

Conference motions raising even a hint of non-compliance with the law are routinely ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) on the grounds that they could bring the Union into "legal jeopardy."

This year Lambeth branch proposed some modest amendments to the Rules governing the conduct of SOC at Conference - with the intention of clarifying only that the role of SOC should be to give effect to the will of Conference within the Rules.

Even this timid proposal has been ruled out however - because it could bring the Union into (you guessed) "legal jeopardy". SOC point out that they sometimes refuse to listen to our Conference when it "refers back" their reports (because of the risk of such jeopardy) and that - unless they continue to have a free hand to disregard the will of Conference on legal advice we will find "legal jeopardy" all over the place.

So in UNISON, the SOC stands above our National Delegate Conference - and above the SOC stands respect for the law. Any law.

As an aside, this is an interesting example of how apparently democratic lay structures can come to serve the distinct interests of those for whom the institutional survival and financial stability of the trade union is more important than its effectiveness in promoting and protecting the interests of its members.

What can be done? Nothing, I fear, through the lay structures of UNISON as long as a majority continue to acquiesce in the approach of the current leadership. ‎Next year I'll suggest we propose an amendment to Rule B.4.5 to mirror the rule amendment being recommended by UNITE's Executive (see McCluskey's article above).

I think I can guess what the SOC will do with that (two words, the first meaning "of, or pertaining to the law" and the second referring to a state of danger). 

Just as it has taken UNITE's Executive to recommend the necessary change to their Rules so, in UNISON, it would take the National Executive Council (NEC) to propose this for it to stand a chance.

Whilst that is a good argument for voting for candidates on the "Reclaim the Union" slate in the forthcoming elections to UNISON's NEC‎, it also suggests that UNISON needs a General Secretary prepared to lead from the front and signal that the interests of our members take precedence over the interests of their organisation - and certainly over unjust laws.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trade unions can still improve conditions for working people - the case of shared parental leave

I blog enough about how bad things are working in the public sector (and local government in particular) and also have enough to say criticising what I perceive as the shortcomings of my own trade union.
I think it is worth saying that not everything is bad, and that effective trade union organisation can still be the foundation for the negotiation of improvements to the conditions of service of our members.
In a few weeks shared parental leave will come into force. This progressive new statutory provision enables the sharing of maternity (or adoption) leave and pay between two partners – but the statutory provision only provides for a fairly minimal rate of pay.
Given that this statutory pay rate is well below the (better) contractual rates of maternity pay available to many UNISON members, if employers do not improve upon the statutory minimum rate of pay for shared parental leave take-up will be minimal.
This would rather defeat the purpose of bringing this new leave provision into force.
That may be why even this Government announced their intention to pay shared parental leave at the same rate as equivalent maternity leave. UNISON branches need to demand at least the same from all our employers. We must not allow the climate of austerity and the constant cutbacks and redundancies to inhibit us from fighting for better conditions, particularly where these promote equality.
Today I signed, on behalf of the joint trade unions for my employer, an agreement which gives equivalent rates of pay for shared parental leave to the rates of maternity pay (under a local agreement which is as good as the best in local government).
It is not all bad.


When is a motion also a Number Two?

There is, I suppose, a sense in which a “motion” which is “number two” in order of prioritisation may be considered to the same thing twice.
An unkind person (unlike your blogger) might make this observation about Motion 44 on the agenda for UNISON’s Special Local Government Conference (titled “NJC Pay Campaign 2016” and proposed by the National Joint Council (NJC) Committee).
It’s not so much that this motion is a risible attempt to look away from the whole purpose of the Special Conference (made on behalf of the very lay body, the majority of whose inability to show the leadership they were elected for, has led us to the Conference itself).
It is, of course, pitiable, that the body, the majority of whom were accountable (if not responsible) for the catastrophic misleadership of the 2014 pay campaign, should put – to the Conference convened to address their failings – a motion dealing only with the 2016 campaign.
It is, also, embarrassing to find oneself in a trade union in which an important national Committee think it appropriate to put a motion to Conference which does nothing other than report on things which they have done since they comprehensively sabotaged our last pay campaign.
But, as I say, it is not so much these reprehensible features of a deplorable motion submitted by the apparently shameless to which I wish to draw your attention.
No, I fear I must voice some criticism of the work of a generally fine Committee of which I was once a member, the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) for our Local Government Conference.  I struggle to understand why the SOC admitted to our Conference agenda a motion written with such incompetence as would embarrass a first time drafter of a Conference motion.
If there were a simple course on how to write a UNISON Conference motion it would include the guidance that a motion for Conference should state what it is that “Conference notes”, what it is that “Conference believes” and what it is that “Conference resolves.” The author of Motion 44 missed that.
The motion starts by telling Conference what the NJC Committee believes should be the outcome of the Conference. Fascinating (or not). But also irrelevant and incompetent.
It then tells us four things that the NJC Committee notes (and another that it “further notes”) before informing the reader of two things which the NJC Committee agreed last November (one of which was a paper, about which the motion tells us no less than nine things).
The motion then “further notes” two pieces of information about another meeting of that Committee in January before telling us that the NJC Committee calls upon the Service Group Executive to do four things.
All of this is interesting (at least to the readership of this blog even if not to the wider membership) but not a word of Motion 44 amounts to a competent motion to our Special Local Government Conference.
No wonder we are rubbish at negotiating with employers if those to whom we entrust this task are incapable of writing a proper motion to our own Conference – but why on earth did the SOC admit to the agenda a motion drafted at the Great White Elephant when, had a branch submitted such poorly drafted drivel it would have been ruled out of order?
Were Conference delegates to endorse Motion 44 (or any Composite including that Motion which did not substantially alter and advise its contents) we would be announcing that UNISON at a national level is no longer to be taken seriously by the employers, or by our members, in local government.
As to whether someone should force the SOC to justify their pusillanimous decision to admit the – plainly incompetent – Motion 44 on to our Conference agenda, I fear that all we would achieve by rubbing their noses in this particular “motion” would be to take up time we could better use debating serious motions with sensible proposals.
Finally, a special note for some enthusiastic readers at national and Regional level. The criticisms of the NJC Committee and the SOC in this blog post, and other criticisms of UNISON officials and Committees in relation to the Special Conference (and for that matter, other Conferences) are all allegations that those criticised have breached UNISON Rules (Rule B.1.4 and Rule B.2.2 for example).


Dave - Don't Duck Debate!

‎Among the many things I rather admire about Ed Miliband is his pursuit of David Cameron over the latter's refusal to face a fair, public debate in the General Election campaign.

It's clear that an incumbent is always likely to resist such a debate (unless they consider themselves an underdog) but it shows a pretty shameful attitude towards democracy and a shabby disrespect for the electorate to resist a debate.

And this is true in other elections also. 

One of the motions on the Preliminary Agenda for UNISON National Delegate Conference is Motion 115 from the Lambeth Branch (yes, I declare an interest, my branch sometimes pays my tube fare and Conference expenses).

Motion 115 expresses support for Regionally organised hustings in the forthcoming election for General Secretary of UNISON - and suggests that these could be broadcast online so that members can see for whom they are being asked to vote.

As diligent readers (Sid and Doris Blogger) will be aware, this blog has a position of "armed neutrality" at this stage in the run up to the General Secretary election and - on the only occasion when your blogger had the opportunity to question would-be candidates - I did my level best to be equally rude to all of them.

The point about hustings - and making them accessible to members - is that anyone who aspires to be our General Secretary should be prepared to test themselves in front of our members. 

My fellow members of our National Executive Council (NEC) will have to take a policy position on Motion 115. Will we support elementary democratic practice (as advocated by Ed Miliband)? Or will we take the line of Dave who wants to duck debate?

The answer to that question will show whether our NEC‎ has confidence in the ability of candidates who may emerge to contest the position of our principal officer to present themselves well in debate (much as they would have to if - as we surely expect of our General Secretary - they have to appear on "Question Time" or generally in the media).

I await that answer with interest.

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Save the White Elephant!

‎UNISON is a proudly progressive organisation and, though animal welfare is rarely a key priority compared to job security or public services, it's good to know that protection for endangered species is a core value for important decision making bodies within our Union.

The Standing Orders Committee for June's National Delegate Conference have ruled out of order a request from the Lambeth branch that our National Executive Council (NEC) undertake an options appraisal of our accommodation needs, noting that this should include consideration of moving from, or making better use of, the plush and partially empty "UNISON Centre" (a.k.a. "The Great White Elephant of the Euston Road").

The SOC fear that this motion may breach Rule D.2.10, which - on their current reading - reserves to the NEC all responsibility for the terms and conditions of staff. 

This is, of course, such fanciful reasoning as to be absurd, suggesting as it does that our Conference - the "supreme Government" of our lay led Union - ought not to consider the scandalous waste of our money on empty space in Central London because we don't want to upset those who work there.

Clearly that can't be the real reason for the SOC decision.

The truth must be that they want to save an endangered species - White Elephants of such impressive majesty are increasingly rare and many believe that they must be protected at all costs!

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UNISON Special Conference - Out to lunch?

Delegates to UNISON's Special Local Government Conference next Tuesday have now received the Final Agenda (about which I shall blog further shortly).

As you might expect, the timetable for the day is set out in the documents. The Conference will open at 11am and close at 4.30pm. The late start time is clearly intended to enable branches within three hours travel time from London to avoid the expense of overnight accommodation if they wish - and the early finish is equally intended to enable all those apart from the furthest flung to return home the same day.

The limits to Conference time set by these constraints are entirely comprehensible.

What is a little difficult to swallow is the fact that, within the five and a half hours of Conference time, it is proposed to have a ninety minute lunch break (from 12.30pm until 2pm). (Actually I suppose that with so long to chew our food we could swallow anything) (which may be the point?)

Many of our members work for five and a half hours without taking a break - but we shall expect ourselves to spend more than a quarter of our time lunching! Even though it is only those motions which attracted some support in the pre-Conference prioritisation process which can be debated there are still more motions for debate than we are likely to be able to deal with in four hours of Conference time.

Doubtless many of our activists who are used to often working through lunch will consider challenging this aspect of the Conference timetable when the timetable is put to delegates to be ratified - but that is probably ill-advised. 

The time taken up on challenges to the Standing Orders Committee, by their reconsideration and subsequent report back would all simply serve to reduce the paltry four hours of debating time available to address the most catastrophic national pay dispute in local government history.

‎The absurd and unjustifiable decision to write such an unnecessarily long lunch break into the timetable for our Special Conference is, let's face it pretty small beer compared to the conduct of the pay dispute by our national officials.

Or perhaps several large beers...?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

UNISON calls strike ballot at Barnet Council

I can do no better than reproduce the press release of the Barnet branch;
UNISON, one of the UK's largest trade unions, serving more than 1.3 million members, wrote to Barnet Council on11 March 2015 notifying them of our intention to conduct a strike ballot of the Council workforce. This ballot is a direct response to the five commissioning projects agreed at the 3 March 2105 Full Council which would mean outsourcing of the majority of the workforce.
The Ballot opens 18th March and closes 8th April.
At the infamous Full Council meeting on 3 March 2015, the Conservative Administration voted through the decision to explore other options for directly delivering council services. The services involved are as follows:
·         Libraries
·         Adults & Communities
·         Children’s Centres
·         Street Scene services
·         Education & Skills and School Meals
UNISON estimates that this will mean upwards of 80% of the workforce are likely to be working for a different employer. According to a recent Barnet Council committee report there are only 1,466 directly employed permanent staff.
It is important to note that the in-house service option for eleven out of twelve outsourcing projects have beenrejected by Barnet Council over the last three years. UNISON has, over the last six years, tried to engage with Barnet Council over the future delivery of council services without success. In-house services, whilst previously being high performing and low cost, have meant nothing.
Barnet Council abandoned its role of directly delivering services when it adopted the mass outsourcing EasyCouncil One Barnet Programme back in November 2010.
We now have first-hand experience of what happens following outsourcing and even councillors of all parties areopenly critical of some the services they are receiving from Capita.
The shocking Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on Your Choice Barnet is more evidence of what happens when terms & conditions are cut and are not taken seriously. It is clear from the report that service users were put at risk as a consequence of YCB’s attempts to deliver the seriously flawed One Barnet Business Case.
In committee meeting after committee meeting the public has had to listen to talk of difficult decisions, yet the real difficult decision would be to reject the austerity budget process and refuse to cut and outsource services. Elected members were elected to serve their communities and not impose policies that will see even greater inequalities.
Contrary to the spin that outsourcing protects frontline services and guarantees savings, what all the evidenceclearly documents is that the taxpayer ultimately ends up paying the extra costs whilst service quality deteriorates.
Austerity is driving the outsourcing agenda not just in Barnet but across the UK and Europe. Whilst other councils are also considering mass outsourcing Barnet is racing ahead and appears to be in a race with Northampton &Bromley Councils which are also doing the same.
UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said:
“Barnet Council staff are an incredible, resourceful & understanding workforce, who have been subjected to unacceptable levels of change and stress. The adoption of the five commissioning outsourcing projects makes it very clear to all staff that the Council is not interested in retaining in-house services. This is an ideological assault on public services and our branch is drawing a line in the sand by declaring this ballot. Austerity politics is driving an anti-in-house services agenda which we reject and are asking our members to reject.”


Saturday, March 07, 2015

UNISON NEC elections - vote for me?

‎Like many blog posts on this blog over the next few weeks this is one which has not been posted with any UNISON resources.

Voting in the elections for UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) opens on 7 April, but, the nomination period having drawn to a close, I can report that I am a candidate for election (to the male seat to represent the Greater London Region).

Sixteen branches have had their nominations for me to be a candidate accepted (and two have had their nominations rejected).

I'll be writing to the branches directly but shall now thank the Barnet, Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark and Tower Hamlets local government branches, the Community and Voluntary Organisations branch, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority branch, the Homerton Hospital branch and the branches at London Metropolitan University, the School of Oriental and African studies (SOAS) and the University of Westminster.

‎I'm standing for (re-)election to our NEC because I want UNISON to be a vibrant, combative and effective trade union which fights for the interests of our members.

As ever, I face an opponent with enthusiastic support from the control freak faction at Great Russell Street‎, who believes in "partnership" with employers and the disciplined support of lay activists for paid officials of the trade union.

I have fought six previous elections against candidates of the Regional Office, and have always only narrowly scraped to victory. 

My opponents have had the sponsorship of an entire element of the union's bureaucracy and I have had only the enthusiasm of genuine activists.

Once more we shall see whether the unimaginative careerist elements (who generally dominate all the large trade unions) can extinguish troublesome democrats (in the Greater London male seat and elsewhere).

They may succeed of course and - if they do - they'll probably sustain trade unionism in this country for just long enough to ensure that future membership subscriptions pay their own pensions.

My justification for seeking to remain on our NEC is primarily that I am good at making powerful people feel uncomfortable (which is surely what we all want from every shop steward). Years ago I challenged the waste of a million pounds on Care Connect Learing. More recently I pursued the squandering of another million pounds on the risible "Three Companies Project". I make a nuisance of myself to those who misuse power and disadvantage working people - whether they are in management or in the trade union. 

There is always the option to vote for an alternative who will do as they are told.

Workers in the UK - and across the world - need much better from our trade unions. Like so many other lay activists, I give my time to try to make our movement into what it could be. Much of what holds us back comes from within our own movement, particularly from this whose vested interest is in the financial viability of the institutions of the movement more than in the efficacy of those institutions in promoting our members' interests.

UNISON members face a clear choice in the election for the Greater London male seat between an irritating, arrogant critic of indolent authoritarianism and a stooge of the Regional Office.

I'll respect that choice.

Read more here later.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.



Spring cleaning

Apologies to those readers who noticed I had taken the blog offline for a couple of days.

I am trying to springclean the blog, which I hope to make a better and more effective vehicle with which to organise, comment, offend and outrage (as appropriate). A lot of old posts have disappeared temporarily whilst I check through previous content.

This is my personal blog and all content expresses only my own opinions as a rank and file labour movement activist.