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From: The Socialist issue 1028, 6 February 2019: Tory Brexit farce, Corbyn and unions: Call mass action now

Search site for keywords: Unison - Democracy - Union - Socialist Party - Socialist

Unison: Democracy and the right to speak out are under threat

Unison pay strike, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson

Unison pay strike, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Party members in Unison

Three members of public sector union Unison's national executive council (NEC), including two Socialist Party supporters, have received a letter from the union stating that there have been complaints made that they "breached collective responsibility" at the NEC meeting on 6 December and that they are now under investigation.

What happened in December?

At that meeting, new election rules were proposed for the forthcoming NEC elections. These new procedures ban groups of Unison members from getting together to campaign in the election. This ban comes on top of last year's ban on members of political parties campaigning in Unison elections.

The Socialist Party believes this new ban is a breach of the union's rules and conference policy.

The right of members to campaign is specifically provided for in the union rule book and this was reinforced at the national conference. The rules state that the NEC "shall not do anything that is inconsistent with these rules or the policy of the union as laid down by the national delegate conference".

Duty bound

Because of this, Socialist Party members on Unison's NEC believed they were duty bound to challenge this issue and speak out at the NEC. During the course of the meeting, Socialist Party members spoke up to raise these concerns and voted against the new rules.

At the meeting, they were warned about "breaching collective responsibility", ie for having the cheek to try and speak and vote against a proposal. The Socialist Party does not accept that NEC members should be gagged from speaking up at NEC meetings, denying them the right to advocate on behalf of the constituency they are democratically elected to represent.

There can be no legitimate reason to ask NEC members to be bound by a decision that they genuinely believe to be a breach union rules, or in fact the law.

The fact that they are now under investigation for sticking up for the rules and democracy in Unison is disgraceful. It must be challenged by all Unison members.

We call on union members to write to the general secretary to complain, to raise the matter in the branches, and pass motions in support of the three NEC members now facing investigation.

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Article dated 6 February 2019

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