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Links With Labour Debated As Unison United Left Launched
On 3 November 150 UNISON activists met to launch United Left. They debated many key issues including the war, privatisation, struggles such as Hackney, the union's political fund and the fight against cuts.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party Industrial Organiser
It was the culmination of months of negotiations between the Campaign for a Fighting and Democratic UNISON (CFDU), led by Socialist Party (SP) members, and others including the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP).
It adopted a constitution drafted by Glenn Kelly on behalf of the CFDU. The new constitution protects democratic rights and ensures that no political group can dominate it by sheer weight of numbers.
No group can hold more than one-third of the national officers of the National Executive Committee (NEC), which is made up of three delegates from each region of the union. No political group can have more than one of these places.
Socialist Party members elected were chair: Glenn Kelly, joint editor of United Left publications: Mike Forster (along with Kenny Bell, independent) and joint local government convenor: Roger Bannister (sharing with an SWP member).
The following were also elected: Claire Williams (SWP) national convenor, John Owen (independent) national secretary and Fred le Platt (Socialist Outlook) treasurer.
Other positions filled included convenor for health (independent) and higher education (SWP). It was also agreed that there should be an extra convenor for Black members to be filled later. All the left UNISON NEC members are on the United Left NC ex-officio.
Glenn Kelly moved the motion on the links with the Labour Party. UNISON members are being consulted by the union since the leadership were forced by resolution 131, moved by Glenn at the annual conference last June. The right wing are attempting to limit it to an "interim report" at the next conference. It is crucial that the Left put them under pressure to change the rules in line with the spirit of 131.
Whilst the conference agreed on the need to loosen up the political funds and agreed that no UNISON money should be paid to MPs and councillors who attack union members' jobs and conditions, the proposal by the Socialist Party that the Left should support a third political fund was lost.
Roger Bannister reminded the conference that anything else, including calling for one political fund, would be ruled out of order, leaving only the Socialist Party's resolution on next year's conference agenda.
If the United Left is to become a mass-based organisation, it must maintain the methods of the CFDU. They are democratic control by its members and no one party using its numbers to crowd out others. Unfortunately that has not been evident in practice
Claire Bradley, SP member from Wolverhampton, spoke in the constitution debate about the lack of democracy in her region when it 'elected' its three delegates. She that it was not good enough for the SWP to organise a regional meeting "with a few of their friends" to elect delegates to the National Committee. She had been in the CFDU since its inception and a member of the union for 20 years. Yet when she rang up to find out when the meeting was she was kept in the dark.
Despite efforts by some to stop Claire from speaking, Glenn Kelly said from the platform that now the conference had adopted a constitution, the NC would investigate and if necessary reconvene the West Midlands meeting, making sure that all the Left was informed and given a chance to be there. "And this goes for any other region" he added.
In The Socialist 9 November 2001: