Thursday, December 10, 2009

The NEC approves UNISON's budget but not the Chancellor's

Yesterday's NEC meeting (of which there is and excellent report elsewhere) coincided with the Pre-Budget Report. This meant that as me met and discussed the service and pay and conditions cuts that our members are facing and how we are responding through our Million Voices Campaign, the Chancellor was telling MP's what would be in the budget, and sadly not what was in UNISON's excellent alternative budget.

For me this meant the rare experience of being asked to right an article for progress, the shall we say 'loyalist' Labour website. Now with promises of caps on our members pay and pensions, my reaction to the PBR was never going to be a glowing endorsement of the Chancellor (though of course on the important issue of spending he gets it absolutely right that spending cuts now not only would damage those services but also the economy). As what one of our officers said to me, it's the difficult audiences not the easy ones that are the most important to get to.

Which is fitting given some of the debate around the Million Voices Campaign at the NEC meeting. I had to intervene after another member of the NEC criticised us for allowing Labour MP's to sign up to the campaign, when surely they are a key audience we need to influence? I posed the question of who they think will make the decisions, and will any other political party come to our defence? And I also pointed out that getting the MP's to sign up couldn't be the end point, but that now they (and particularly the Cabinet members) have signed up to a clear statement against cuts and privatisation it is our job to hold them to that.

Ultimately, that's the difference between those of us who want to campaign and win with our members, and those that want to posture and grandstand.


Shona said...

Good to see the union giving a lead on this, and doing it in a mature way.

I really don't get this knee-jerk stuff that the hard left think will get us anywhere. Politics is the art of the possible, not about making an art of the impossible.

Andrew said...

I have no problem with signing MPs up to a set of demands so that we can hold them to account later, in fact that is precisely what I am doing in Islington by agreeing a staff manifesto for 2010 council elections.

The problem is that the million voices campaign just does not go far enough and of course pro privatising/job cutting, MPs are happy to sign it for the kudos from unison, it commits them to very little, their using us. Perhaps if we were asking MPs to sign up to the people’s charter (and even that has it weaknesses) or our alternative budget then we would be able to hold them to something more likely to assist us defending UNISON members in the future.

John Gray said...


I'm not sure that all Islington Labour Cllrs candidates will agree to the "Peoples Charter" so I assume you will not be supporting those who don't?

Please tell? and also you appear to want to support only those such as yourself who are trotsky entryists, I expect you will be be looking forward to a quiet 2010 - unlike the rest of us.

Jon Rogers said...

I haven't got round to blogging my report from Wednesday but when I do I intend to mention your contribution to the debate on the Million Voices campaign.

I think the test of the campaign will come precisely at the point at which the Union has to do what you, James, said we should if those who sign up for Million Voices don't then follow through.

I had reservations about the speed with which we got Cabinet Members in particular on board but if we genuinely now seek to hold them to the principles for which they have expressed support then we will be applying pressure. This will represent something of a departure for Labour Link in particular.

The Peoples Charter is of course entirely consistent with the Million Voices campaign (as the Scottish Regional Convenor of UNISON made clear at the recent Conference) and therefore the approach which Andrew is describing in Islington is entirely consistent with the approach of the national trade union.

Some colleagues in the London Region don't know when to put their ice picks down I'm afraid!

Andrew said...


Its so nice to talk! While I was using what we are doing in Islington as an example of why I don’t oppose signing people up to something, I was however not suggesting the two processes are the same. One is a negotiation with the Islington Labour and the other is about our demands, I don’t see the two being mutually exclusive. I tend to think that even in the negotiations are starting point must be our demands.

Scotland can manage it as Jon said take a look at what they are asking people to sign up to for their 2011 election.

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