Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/539/6203
"Democracy not bureaucracy"
Fighting, democratic unions not witch hunts
Throughout Unison's 2008 conference there were two main talking points. One was the witch hunt taking place against Unison activists, including myself and three other Socialist Party members. The other was motion 63, entitled 'New Labour, what do we get for our money?'
Onay Kasab, Greenwich Unison (personal capacity)
The motion stated how workers in unions such as Unison, all round the country, are questioning why it is that the unions continue to fund New Labour, while day in, day out a New Labour government attacks public services and public servants.
Unison bureaucrats, swimming against the tide of members' opinion, have pointed out that the Tories would be worse. Whoever is worse, New Labour or the Tories, there is no way things could get more bizarre under either party.
This is the experience in Greenwich where Vosper Thornycroft, a shipbuilding firm, is threatening to take over education. When did a career building warships become a qualification for being fit to take over an education service?
Instead of concentrating time, money and resources on fighting these free-market policies, the Unison leadership is attacking leading lay activists. These are trade union activists democratically elected each year by members. It is ironic that unelected officials are witch hunting elected reps. But it is positively 'Orwellian' that the official leading the witch hunt is the misnamed 'head of democratic services'!
It is no coincidence that those being witch hunted include Socialist Party members who ensured that the issue of Labour Party funding was discussed at this year's Unison conference. This crucial debate took place despite the massive pressure put on branch delegates by union officials, who attempted to ensure that the resolution was not discussed.
The witch hunt of Socialist Party members in Unison is linked to a 2007 leaflet which, as well as calling for a debate on the Labour link, protested about the absence of a debate on the election of all officials. The Socialist Party also demands that workers' representatives live on a workers' wage.
These two points are essential to democracy and accountability within the trade union movement. They would make sure that representatives do not lose touch with those they represent.
It is of these principled, democratic ideas that some union leaderships, such as those in Unison, are most scared. This is why the witch hunt is taking place.
This is a huge dereliction of duty by union leaders. For them democracy is not important. In Unison, many of the disciplinary rules are more draconian than those of some of our employers. It is certainly the case that the way in which the Unison disciplinary process has taken place recently would shame most councils.
We urgently need to hold these union leaders to account. The witch hunts must be stopped. Union rules need to be reformed to promote democracy, not enable dictatorship.
In The Socialist 25 June 2008:
Socialist Party editorial
Unison Conference 2008
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Origins of the Labour Party
Socialist Party workplace news