Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/353/5839
UNISON local government conference
From Drama To Farce
AT THE end of a day of high drama on 21 June, UNISON's Local Government conference descended into farce when the president refused to take a vote on two emergency motions rejecting the pay offer and simply closed conference!
The dangerous three-year pay offer (see XXXX) has been roundly condemned by activists but the national 'consultation' exercise has been designed to give an 'accept' vote with UNISON's executive refusing to make a recommendation.
Emergency motions calling for a rejection of the offer and moving to an industrial action ballot were originally ruled off the agenda on spurious technicalities. But conference, led by Socialist Party members Glenn Kelly and Mike Forster, on three separate occasions overturned standing orders and insisted on their being heard.
Eventually Glenn Kelly was allowed to move Bromley branch's motion. His condemnation of both the offer and the cowardice of the leadership was loudly applauded. There was no doubt conference was going to overwhelmingly pass the motion. Calls for the vote were refused - this is 'not allowed' under UNISON's standing orders - the executive spoke against and the president turned the lights out and walked off the platform!
The executive had been 'on the run' all day, being easily defeated on two earlier motions on pay and a number of other issues.
But the other main debate was to be around the "Remodelling the Workforce" agreement in schools. Last year's conference rejected a call to withdraw from this agreement which the Socialist Party has called a recipe for 'teaching on the cheap'. Clearly there was a feeling amongst branches and long-suffering teaching assistants that it was worth giving the agreement a try.
One year on and it was equally clear that 'remodelling' had been tried and it had failed. Remodelling is one of UNISON's flagship policies, supposed proof of a successful partnership with the Labour government.
Socialist Party member Roger Bannister, moving an alternative motion calling for a complete renegotiation of the deal to include a national claim for all school support staff, reminded conference that even the UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, had said 12 months ago that if there was no extra money to fund remodelling, UNISON would be withdrawing.
There have been further budget shortfalls, not more money. The agreement is a key cornerstone of Labour's plans to cut teacher numbers and replace them with teaching assistants on much less pay.
Mike Forster, Socialist Party member from Kirklees, ridiculed the idea raised in the debate, that the existing agreement could be 'negotiated' borough by borough. The reality is that the agreement would have to be negotiated school by school!
Conference sank the flagship by 420,000 votes to 250,000.
In the week where we have been forced to announce our departure from the UNISON United Left because of the rightward drift of its largest component, the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party has proved that it has the authority to lead on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of low-paid members in UNISON's ranks.
In The Socialist 26 June 2004:
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