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7 February 2018

Unison national women's conference - dirty tricks fail to stop successful Socialist Party participation

Vicky Perrin, Unison member (personal capacity)

This year's Unison national women's conference (NWC) in Liverpool last week saw Socialist Party members playing a key role in initiating and organising the first 'Unison Action' fringe meeting to be held at a self-organised group conference.

For many years the union bureaucracy has felt in safe territory at NWC with a comfortable agenda of women's issues and largely free from political debate. This year though, they feel under attack.

Terrified for the upcoming service group executive elections and a further loosening of their stranglehold on the union after Unison Action's success in last year's national executive council elections, they have driven through new election rules to limit members' campaigning and 'interference from outside organisations', with new threats of disciplinary action.

Socialist Party industrial organiser and NUJ member Glenn Kelly had requested a press pass in advance as usual but been told that Unison was not issuing them for the NWC.

Glenn was one of four Socialist Party activists illegally disciplined by the union bureaucracy back in 2007 in a failed witch-hunt. Unable to come into the conference hall he was outside helping women members leaflet for the fringe and sell the Socialist.

Meanwhile, anonymously produced leaflets appeared inside the conference hall showing a 'no entry' sign over a picture of Glenn. This contravened the union's own rules of material distribution in a despicable personal attack on an individual and the Socialist Party.

They show that far from cleaning up its act following a certification officer judgement which found Unison's officials to have broken the union's own rules in the 2015 general secretary elections, a weak and threatened bureaucracy will go to any lengths to attack any opposition and cling on to power.

Ironically, for a union that prides itself on being 'for women, led by women' they allege that the work of woman delegates at the conference was in some way being 'interfered with' by a man - which is a new level of patronising insult.

Far from raising hostility, delegates were appalled at the use of such dirty tricks and the Unison Action meeting attracted around 100 delegates who came to discuss the fight to overthrow this rotten right-wing bureaucracy.

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