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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 July 2004

UNISON conference:

Wrong Answers To Wrong Questions!

THE MOOD of militancy that was evident at UNISON's Local Government Service Group Conference, (see last week's socialist), did not automatically feed into the main Annual Delegate Conference, held on the following four days.

Bill Mullins

The reason for this was an agenda that in many ways did little justice to the problems facing many UNISON members. In addition, general secretary Dave Prentis used conference to launch his next election campaign, refuting rumours that he would not be running for a second term.

Bale out Labour

Conference was used to bale out the flagging fortunes of the Labour Party whenever possible. So instead of having a New Labour cabinet minister addressing it, (which would have been provocative), Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan spoke.

This was a crude attempt by the bureaucracy to show that a better Labour Party was possible, based on some of the reforms achieved via the devolved Assembly.

This manoeuvre even went as far as approving a motion on the forthcoming political fund ballot which dishonestly proposed to play down the link with Labour in order to win the ballot! Socialist Party members were the only ones to speak against this proposal. Unfortunately the option of also balloting members on how the political fund should be spent, (which would include a disaffiliation option), was not allowed onto the agenda.

Moreover, a motion from the Bromley branch, that referred to public expenditure as "meagre" was opposed by the National Executive Council (NEC) on the basis that UNISON had welcomed additional funding.

Call for Blair's resignation

One motion from the Lambeth Branch called for Tony Blair to resign as prime minister. Despite the fact that the union's leadership believe that the Labour Party can be reclaimed, they opposed it, leaving many delegates wondering how a reclaimed Labour Party could still have Blair at the head.

But the motion, which had people on both sides of the debate making similar speeches, (not least pointing out that there is no left leader in waiting), merely created confusion and was easily defeated.

Industrial action to defend pensions

There were some good points at the conference, not least during the pensions debate, when the leadership accepted an amendment moved by Glenn Kelly from Bromley. This called for industrial action to be organised in order to defend public-sector occupational pension schemes.

This follows the TUC pensions demonstration the previous Saturday, called largely as a result of Socialist Party members in the PCS union pushing it through the union and onto the TUC agenda last September.

Distrust over witch-hunt

Clear evidence of a high level of distrust by conference delegates of the NEC over the on-going political witch-hunt in UNISON emerged over a proposal to suspend from office members accused of harassment.

When an NEC speaker referred to the new power being used "sparingly and carefully" an audible groan of mistrust went across the hall! This proposal was defeated, as were ones intended to move the union to a two-year cycle for branch officers, Service Group meetings etc.

Despite a relatively "low key" agenda, conference was in no mood to surrender powers to the NEC!

 

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In The Socialist 3 July 2004:

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New Labour Privatising By Choice

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Socialism 2004: "A Really Brilliant Weekend"


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Unison conference: Wrong Answers To Wrong Questions!


 

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