Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/848/20342
Unison recall conference
We need a fighting, democratic union
Mark Evans, Unison local government service group executive (personal capacity)
For only the second time in its history, the Unison union has convened a special delegate recall conference.
Over 25% of local government branches called for this conference due to members' anger over a very poor 1.1% pay increase proposal following the calling off of strike action.
The conference takes place just eleven days after our members were part of a public sector general strike that took place in Northern Ireland (see page 3), showing the potential for mass joint strike action in Britain.
The calling of the conference reflects the huge anger at the way the union's national elected leadership and unelected officers 'led' our pay campaign. Having called on members to reject the 1% and for them to strike, they then delayed and delayed before incredibly calling off further action for little more than we were called on strike for. Once again they played the grand old Duke of York trick on the members.
Time and time again we are told that we are a member-led union. In reality it is unelected full time national officers living on wages way beyond the average member who are calling the shots.
What was more worrying was that just hours before the planned second strike Unison general secretary Dave Prentis (who is not part of the negotiating team) received a letter from the Labour Party leader in local government calling on him to call off the action and make sure that the union didn't call for a rejection of the offer.
He then did exactly as the Labour Party asked him to. Given that members elect him and pay his massive salary, we have a right to demand he does our bidding - not that of the Labour Party.
The right wing union leaders state that, in calling off the 14 October strike, they were in tune with the mood of members. But what they omit to mention is that they had no strategy for victory.
After the successful coordinated strike action with other unions on 10 July, we had to wait three months for the next strike before it was cancelled at the last minute. This campaign could not have been organised better to frustrate and demoralise members.
The vote to accept another rubbish pay offer was more a vote of no confidence in Unison leaders' ability to organise effective coordinated strike action. Where branches campaigned for rejection, members voted for rejection.
This conference is an opportunity for members to further the task of reclaiming Unison. Unelected national officers should no longer be calling the shots behind the scenes.
Socialist Party members in Unison urge delegates to support motions that give lay members control over pay negotiations and argue that suspending the October walkout was wrong. We also support calls for any strike suspension decision to involve an extensive, clear and transparent consultation of branches and regions.
We support motions calling for the reopening of pay negotiations and the submission of a pay claim for 2015-16 with immediate effect. If Unison does not draw the necessary conclusions from the pay debacle it will end up repeating them.
We need to reclaim Unison:
- For the regular election of all full time officers who should be on the average wage of Unison members
- No deals behind members backs - lay members to be involved in all negotiations including over pay
- Elect a fighting leadership that will give Unison members confidence to fight
In The Socialist 18 March 2015:
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