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Scottish Unison members oppose leadership's sell-out
Just days before councils across Scotland meet to slash public services, the February meeting of Unison Scottish Council was presented with a paper for debate entitled The Public Sector Workforce Framework.
A Scottish Unison member
The paper, marked "strictly not for publication" was the product of continuing discussions between the Scottish government, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
The paper's stated aim was "the pursuit of the goal of no compulsory redundancies in exchange for agreement to real and meaningful working practices that allow employers to generate the package of savings required to fund this goal".
An hour before the full council, the union's Scottish Committee meeting had debated the paper and, on a narrow vote of eleven to eight, recommended acceptance.
The document represented a thinly disguised attempt by a section of the Unison Scottish leadership to overturn the Unison council's position for coordinated industrial action to defeat cuts, as proposed by the Glasgow City Unison branch and agreed at the council's previous meeting in December.
Also agreed in December was the call for councils to set needs budgets and to call on elected politicians to refuse to make cuts. However, the proposed document shows that the Scottish leadership accepts cuts are inevitable.
The debate was sharp and protracted with many delegates opposing on two counts: firstly, over being 'bounced' into making a decision without time to consult members; secondly, that the content of the proposal represented a 'sell-out' of the membership in advance of any struggle against the employers.
Branch delegations that had consistently supported the leadership previously were split, in one case providing speakers both for and against the motion.
It was unfortunate that some delegates who consider themselves to be on the left were pushing for acceptance, arguing for the 'new reality' of reduced council budgets.
One delegate, a member of Socialist Appeal, explained that his branch had adopted a similar approach twelve months ago when it became clear that the council would be heading for a crisis.
Speaker after speaker condemned, not only the intention of the proposal, but the signal that it would send to employers who would use it to undermine local action.
If carried it would also represent a severe blow to the morale of the membership who are looking for a firm lead from the union at this time. After over an hour of debate the meeting voted to reject the partnership framework by a big majority.
This represents a victory for Unison members who want the union to have a clear strategy to defeat the cuts.
In The Socialist 10 February 2011:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party review