I won’t go into detail of every item that was considered as these included 16 motions, 2 amendments to motions and 28 rule amendments.It is good to see a motion (Motion 102) on Domestic violence, a gendered issue from the National Women’s Committee and the D&O policy of support. There was major contention when a similar motion was ruled out of order last year on the grounds of ‘legal jeopardy’. Considerable debate was generated at conference. Whilst raising awareness of existing guidance, the motion calls on the NEC to work with the National Women’s Committee to develop guidance on supporting women who allege violence whilst ensuring branches can represent all parties involved fairly and impartially.
As last year there are a whole raft of rule amendments that seek to change internal UNISON elections from annual to biennial and also to change the frequency of meetings of various bodies of the union from annual to biennial. It was stated that Consultation has recently taken place with Regional Convenors and the view was that we are still (as last year) opposed to biennial elections.It was stated by some NEC members that as NEC (National Executive Council) elections and SGE (Service Group Executive) elections take place every 2 years shouldn’t the same apply to branch elections? The position of the Left NEC members present was that there was a difference between someone serving a 2 year term on the NEC and a Branch Secretary who could be undertaking a full time role. Annual elections at branch level were vital for the democracy of the union. If a Branch Secretary, for example, was doing a good job they would be re-elected therefore it would seem sensible to stick with annual elections. I stated that it would be potentially a nightmare for members if there was a cycle of elections in branches every 2 years and to be saddled with a Branch Secretary for example who was disinterested, disengaged from members, not representing them etc. and there was no way to remove that person from the role.
There was a very good contribution from one of the Assistant General Secretaries along the lines that whilst there were clearly varied views on the D&O committee on this there was a problem in terms of how you could get rid of someone who was not performing in their union role and annual elections were vital for this and to keep branches re-invigorated. There was therefore an organising dimension to this also.In the end it was agreed we would recommend opposition to rule amendments proposing a move from annual to biennial elections for Regional Council and Regional Committee. It was agreed to defer consideration of rule amendments to do with Branch Committee elections as this would give more time to consider our position and look at what this would mean in terms of the organising agenda.