Thursday, 3 December 2009

South West Regional Committee

On Monday, I attended the above committee, which, like most committees in UNISON, does exactly what it says on the tin. It was my third time attending and it was, actually, one of the more interesting.
My experience of UNISON to date, or certainly the lay democratic structures, is that there tends to be very little real debate, just people making a series of points, often along the same lines (or if you are an NEC member "Supporting with qualifications") in support of a particular motion. SWRC isn't like that, there was genuine debate (a not inconsiderable amount of it around proposed changes to the Regional Rules and Constitution, colour me surprised) and also around the service group strucutres and various goings on.
One of the biggest items was a section that started as a discussion about Regional Objectives and expanded into a not inconsiderable report on the Three Companies project.
Jon Rogers has blogged about this, as have others, but it would appear that we are having some success in the westcountry. Our Regional Secretary highlighted one particular branch which had tripled the number of members in (if memory serves) an Aramark venture, using the techniques and tactics the project espouses, gaining us something like 100 members in the process. Now this can only be a good thing, whichever side of the debate on the SEIU you are on.
There were acknowledgements of concern, with the Secretary describing UNISON taking advice from a US union as "controversial", and one of the Regional Convenors referring to the controversy over SEIU's tactics, and the internet furore surrounding them. She reported that this had been discussed at a recent meeting of all the regional convenors, and that it was being looked into. I shall not, however be holding my breath for anything to come of it though - bearing in mind we are talking about a union which, if my memory of NDC serves me well, is having it's new HQ building constructed by one of the companies involved in the blacklisting scandal....however should the General Secretary announce that we are having nothing to do with SEIU in the future I shall, of course, be both surprised and pleased.
Having been through a branch assessment shortly after taking up the Branch Secretary role, I am intrigued to see that the process has been radically overhauled for the new year. Now, we have to do it before the Branch AGM, and only the first part is dealt with by the Branch Sec and the Regional Organiser. A new, second part, is then taken to the branch committee and objectives set, with named officers responsible for leading on them. My opinions on the matter are divided, whilst I think it may be a very useful tool for guiding the branch towards better organising, higher recruitment etc, I think the extended involvement of the branch committee may be an unwelcome intrusion into their independance for some. I'd be interested to hear from anyone with opinions on this matter, especially anyone who remembers the debates at conference that must have happened for this policy to start.

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