DON’T GAG CONFERENCE! – UNISON delegates demand debate on coordinated strike action

Delegates at the UNISON conference in Brighton yesterday
Delegates at the UNISON conference in Brighton yesterday

UNISON’s national delegate conference yesterday opened with a row over the refusal of the Standing Orders Committee to allow a debate on emergency motions calling for coordinated industrial action against Gordon Brown’s two per cent pay freeze on the public sector.

Standing Orders Committee ruled that the motions from Darlington, Croydon and Telford, ‘could place the union in legal jeopardy’.

Delegates did not accept this and carried a reference back on the Standing Orders Committee report.

Alan Docherty, Darlington local government branch, told News Line afterwards, ‘I expected Standing Orders to rule against our motion.

‘The leadership don’t want to be committed to action by our resolution.

‘We are calling for coordinated action across all UNISON sectors and with other public sector unions in order to win a better pay deal other than the two per cent, which is a pay cut.

‘Taking action means that the union comes into conflict with Gordon Brown.

‘UNISON’s leadership don’t want a showdown with Gordon Brown because they see him as preferable to the Tories.

‘The National Executive don’t see any alternative to New Labour. I fear we will be sold out on the pay deal. What UNISON needs is a fighting leadership like that in the PCS.’

Croydon local government branch’s emergency motion noted, ‘the message to the annual conference of PCS from our General Secretary, “unions cannot fight these battles alone and the PCS and UNISON should be working together to maximise our impact in responding to the attacks upon us,” and the subsequent decision of the annual conference of the PCS on 16 May to coordinate industrial action where possible with other public sector unions over pay, privatisation and job cuts.’

Croydon delegate Malcolm Campbell told News Line: ‘my argument is that Standing Orders’ stated reason of legal jeopardy is because of the mention of strike action over privatisation.

‘The only mention of that in our motion is that we note the decision of the PCS conference to take coordinated action over privatisation.

‘So the Standing Orders ruling is a nonsense. We have to have coordinated action. It’s the only way we have a chance of getting a decent pay award.

‘If we have to, we should defy the law but UNISON’s running scared of doing something illegal when it’s not even there.

‘It’s a matter of principle that we should be allowed to debate the issue of coordinated action with other public sector unions.

‘When I moved the reference back, I said the Standing Orders Committee should be enabling conference to debate crucial issues, not constraining it.

‘The problem is, our leaders don’t want to take on Gordon Brown.’

This morning Standing Orders Committee has agreed a debate on two emergency resolutions over pay, which may be composited.

Emergency Motion 1 from the NEC, called ‘Coordination of Pay Campaigns’ calls on the NEC to ‘mount a campaign for fair pay up to and including lawful strike action within UNISON rules’.

It adds: ‘the NEC should ‘work together with GMB, PCS, Unite and other public service unions to maximise our impact.’

Emergency Motion 2 from Manchester Community and Mental Health Branch says ‘Conference resolves to instruct the NEC to work with UNISON service groups and with other public sector trade unions to coordinate industrial action, up to and including strike action, within UNISON’s rules in support of our public sector pay claim.’