UNISON local government conference: From Drama To Farce

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!

Dave Gorton

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

The executive had been ‘on the run’ all day, being
easily defeated on two earlier motions on pay and a number of other

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

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

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.