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Unison left accuses general secretary of withholding staff and blocking democracy

‘If the rank and file did that we’d be suspended for disrepute’ – war breaks out in the UK’s biggest union

The Unison left, which won a democratic majority on the union’s national executive and Labour Link committee as well as the Unison presidency, has for months accused the Unison right of manoeuvres and machinations to prevent the new executive from exercising its democratic authority – including the long-term suspension of new president Paul Holmes and a series of refusals to carry out instructions that the UK’s leading labour lawyer said merited instant dismissal for gross misconduct.

The Holmes suspension collapsed late last year and a senior Unison staffer unequivocally apologised for defaming him, but now the left’s Time for Real Change (TRC) group has accused general secretary Christina McAnea and her allies of blocking NEC meetings and withholding union staff who should attend and assist, against the wishes of its elected members. A TRC statement on the group’s website explains:

Statement on NEC Committee meetings

On Wednesday evening [26 January], UNISON’s General Secretary unilaterally issued an instruction to postpone important NEC Committee meetings without the agreement of the elected chairs of those committees. The General Secretary has no power under the UNISON Rulebook to unilaterally stop meetings; this power resides with the elected NEC (Rule D.2.11.9).

The General Secretary instructed UNISON staff not to attend these meetings. Prior to this, an Assistant General Secretary had instructed staff servicing the Finance and Resource Management Committee to leave their duties during the meeting.

The reason for this obstructionism, says the group, is to prevent the NEC voting in measures that would add scrutiny, control and democracy to the union’s financial and legal affairs:

This was due to decisions taken by that Committee, which sought to:

1) add accountability to decisions around staff using UNISON funds for personal legal advice and
2) to provide transparency on the use of UNISON funds for ongoing release time for some NEC members.

In regard to the latter, the Chair of the Finance and Resource Management Committee has been trying for seven months to obtain this information but has been refused access, making scrutiny and challenge on behalf of members impossible.

Had the General Secretary’s instruction been followed by the NEC Staffing Committee, it would not have met to debate proposals which – if agreed by the NEC to be subsequently taken to Conference – would introduce elections for the positions of Assistant General Secretary, Regional Secretary and Head of Service Group as they become vacant.

But the group says its elected members decided to go ahead anyway, despite this de facto and anti-democratic strike by Unison’s right-wing management:

However, elected members of the NEC Staffing Committee decided to proceed with the meeting and to invite relevant staff. All 12 NEC members of the Staffing Committee were present and were able to take decisions to:

1) Agree to take forward proposals on the election of senior positions
2) Agree to permanent funding to make secure the employment of temporary staff who support members with particularly difficult casework, and
3) Agree to a request for funding to employ additional staff to improve oversight of UNISON’s many contracts and to support branches with their procurement.

All NEC members value the contribution made by UNISON staff, but the elected NEC and its Committees must continue to function.

The General Secretary was given the opportunity to withdraw her instruction. So far she has declined to do so. However, NEC meetings must continue to preserve the democracy of our union.

The above episode shows that real change is desperately required in UNISON to create a truly member-led union.

One Unison left figure told Skwawkbox:

Members are beginning to wake up to the news about the real fight that is breaking out in Unison. The General Secretary has instructed her staff not to attend some work meetings with the NEC. This is unofficial strike action to undermine democracy.

If the rank and file did that we would be suspended for bringing the union into disrepute.

Unison’s press office was contacted for comment on the TRC allegations and informed that an article would be published this evening covering them. Not for the first time, no response was received.

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  1. Is the infamous Ms Oldknow involved in this debacle?

    Is there any news yet on why Kirklees still haven’t ruled on the Paul Holmes case. What is their excuse for the seemingly endless delays?

    1. That was my first thought too. Also isn’t there another ex-Labour Party employee who was mentioned in the leaked report employed by Unison now?

  2. The NEC is the governing body of any Union and is responsible for ensuring that the policy of the Union as decided by Conference is implemented. The NEC can also make policy decisions between Conferences on behalf of the members/ conference.
    The General Secretary’s role is that of Chief Executive and she is responsible for the administration of the Union – its staffing, finances etc. She is a member of staff and has no policy making role whatsoever.
    There is no need for ” change” to make Unison a member led union – it’s rules mean that it already is ( all unions have roughly the same rules based on the TUC model rules ).
    The NEC must now lay down the law to the Gen Sec and ensure that she does not exceed her authority by attempting to devise policy or by failing to implement policy decided on by Conference or the NEC.
    I am delighted that the Unison’s NEC is now taking a firm stand and if the Gen Sec continues to undermine the NEC she, as a paid employee, should be subjected to the Disciplinary process laid down in her terms and conditions of employment. Its not rocket science.

  3. The Unison should sack the General Secretary if she has gone beyond her powers ensuring due process takes place. It’s good to see that decisive is now being taken. It’s time they had a taste of their own medicine.

    1. Its not as easy as that Christopher. The Gen Sec like the President is elected by the membership and can only be removed by the membership so its all down to whatever disciplinary processes are in her contract of employment.
      I think the NEC need to re-establish a proper working relationship between them and the Gen Sec – they are the policy makers, she is the administrator. They need to put her in her place publicly and ignore again publicly any policy decisions she makes( such as how Unison votes at external committees such as the Labour NEC).
      The big problem for the NEC is that they are inexperienced but it seems to me (now their President is back) that they are now getting to grips with the situation. I really hope this is the case because the members deserve better than this.

  4. “Preserve” the democracy of Unison or Restore it?

    Christina McAnea has much to answer for.

  5. The general Secretary has already “exceeded her authority” which is subject to instant dismissal…..Time for the President to advise that to the NEC and remove her from the job.What a mess shes made of Unison and has made the unions themselves a laughing stock.and ammunition for the conservative party to ridicule all the unions and the the early General election .

  6. Off-topic, but a few things came to me earlier, during my slumber…

    Have any of these covid scientists been implicated in attending these parties? They will have had access to #10 at all times, I’d have imagined, and with covid addresses being given from #10 each evening, there’s a probability they (at least one of the many to have briefed the nation) were in the building/vicinity “after work”.

    Also, if I remember correctly, there was a time when those scientists threatened to quit‘ if the government failed to listen’ to them. Will they quit when it’s eventually found the government haven’t?

    Finally, what did they know, or even suspect about these ‘occasions’ taking place?

    They seem to be mysteriously quiet since the whole debacle kicked off. Conspicuous by their silence. Have these questions been put to them at all?? If not, WHY not?

    Might be a scoop here, @Skwawky…

    1. Good quesions. Re the ‘covid scientists’, to the best of my knowledge, not directly (their covid narrative has been cited, but without a reputable scientist being willing to attach their name) FWIW Toffee – develop your own assessment of the’covid narrative’ and the contentious science (“The Science – TM) it needs to stand. Start here.

      1. qwerboi
        The latest challenge is in the bmj asking where the data is for the vaccines
        The article also points our how fraudulent and criminal pharma companies have been in the past
        Then theres our previous experience with Tamiflu, billiona wasted
        You don’t need conspiracy theories or nut job anti vaxxers when the truth is out there
        Find the research on how useless flu vaccines are and how criminal vaccinating children to protect adults is
        The words ‘special place in hell’ spring to mind

      2. with the obvious exception of those ‘scientists’ (and doctors) working for SAGE* and Imperial College London

        *over 50% of whom are ‘behavioural psychologists’

      3. Precisely Doug – and for my sins I have worked on several vaccines that never made it to market (85% of al ‘tested’ vaccines).Look up whooping cough vaccine and see how an earlier US President blocked it because it kiled 1 in a 1,00,000 users.. (“the most dangerous vaccine” until yellow card and VAERS data on the current ‘vaccines’ told us it /they are.)

      4. 2 years in and the bmj are saying they and other medical journals still cannot write the editorial declaring the vaccines safe due to the data not being available

      5. Yes the Covid denying political simpletons on here like their little rant as millions pretend to die, tell that to their families lumpen!
        ‘Bye Bye Right Wing Labour GS, GS Right Wing Labour Bye Bye!
        The Unison GS should carry out the EC’s democratic policy will.
        As oppressed members are struggling to cope.
        Another Lightweight Labour Lumpen?
        As Paul & the Left offer us all Hope!’
        Solidarity to Critically Thinking Socialists!

    1. Thanks for this Allan – tried to like it but couldn’t.
      I think we all saw the vilification of Emma coming. Also I think we can expect to see her acting roles drying up now too.
      This is another disgusting vicious attack by the bigoted Zionist lobby on a decent person – she should wear it as a badge of honour but unfortunately it may cost her her career.

      1. Yes Smartboy, but some people are still “catching up” with you on this. Sometimes basic instances of anti-democratic authoritarianism just need to be cited and recited, again and again. There are millions of Jews even who still have no idea of the manipulation and conflation of Jewishness and Imperialism (zionism), so I welcome attention being drawn to the article, as I’m sure do you too.

  7. Unison, like all unions needs to be restructured to become a federal body. All unions have powerful bureaucracies. Nominally power is with the members, in fact the bureaucrats have the real power. As for matter like release time or facility time as it is usually known, it’s a dog’s breakfast. Anyone who has been close to this knows their are unscrupulous individuals who try to manipulate the system: there is significant money available and not everyone is principled. The answer is federalism. Keep power at the grass roots.

    1. I agree. Why did Thatcher (and Blair) immediately centralise Education,theNHS, social services, etc? Because it makes pivotal services easier to control and manipulate. The same is organisationally true of trade unions and any nebulous ‘relations’, which, as Marx pointed out, is where the devil sits.

      100% agree. Democratic bodies have more power lower in their structure.

      1. The make unions bigger, lot, love this. It disempowers the membership and the tops can keep their masks.

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