Sunday 13 September 2009

Report from UNITE Manchester Area Activists Conference

My Area Conference took place on Thursday. It was a chaotic affair, demonstrating that the arrangements for the new UNITE structures have not been communicated clearly enough to activists, and also that the fudges between "Amicus" and "TGWU" approaches have produced a camel that doesn't serve the membership as well as it should. I hope activists are considering how to improve matters when we finally get to our first rules conference.

Conference agreed motions:

  1. against the practice in construction of management "parachuting" in stewards who had not been elected by members
  2. against blacklisting and the unsupervised use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) by local authorities to snoop on workers
  3. highlighting the FT report of the vote by the UNITE delegation at the Labour Party policy forum in Warwick for privatisation of the NHS (against union policy) and calling for a report of the decision along with a list of the delegates to be made available to members
The conference elected the Manchester Area Activists Committee:
  1. Alan Aspen
  2. Andy Ford
  3. Anna Cropper
  4. Arthur Adshead
  5. Barrie Eckford
  6. Colin Trowsedale
  7. Dave Quayle
  8. Debra Green
  9. Ian Allinson
  10. Jackie Cook
  11. Jane Knox
  12. Jason Phillips
  13. John Hughes
  14. Lou Ashton-Hurst
  15. Martin Brown
  16. Nick Parnell
  17. Paul Dale
  18. Pauline Bradburn
  19. Peter Bury
  20. Raul Burke
  21. Steve Pollard
  22. Terry Abbott
The Committee then met briefly and elected Terry Abbott and Pauline Bradburn as delegates to the North West Regional Committee. I was very pleased that the Committee was able to elect from its number to all the Equalities places. I don't think it's appropriate to post the names here.


Demos said...

Hi Ian,

Good to see your coverage of activist area conferences.

But as an EC member are you concerned about the dramatic drop in Unite membership?

At this site there's the suggestion that the SEIU-organising (former T&G-side) might be to blame:

As a strong grass-roots activist I'm interested in what you think.

Ian said...

Of course I'm concerned about the drop in membership, but the figures you quote on your web site are ridiculous.

Most of the drops are about cleaning up membership records of people who haven't been paying subs for years. A long overdue piece of political honesty in my opinion.

To try to blame this on the SEIU, which has plenty of faults I'm sure, looks more like you're grinding an axe than trying to look reality in the face.

There is, however, a drop in paying membership as well. This reflects the fact that our recruitment hasn't kept pace with the rate of membership loss due to members retiring and in recent months, leaving when they lose their jobs.

In my opinion, unions can grow in a recession, if they are seen as effective in resisting the attempts of employers to make working people pay the price of a recession we didn't create. We're having great success in some areas, but nowhere near widely enough.

I think strengthening the activist base and putting the emphasis heavily on campaigning and organising (not merely servicing or recruitment) is the key to making unions more effective. If they prove effective they will grow too.

Demos said...


No complaints about honesty regarding membership figures - agree that deadwood needs to be removed.

But the 1.9M and 1.6M are the last two years figures submitted to the Certification Officer.

And as you would know as an EC member the July 09 UNITE EC report states that membership stands at 1,334,167.

Raises the question - is the close relationship with SEIU and wholesale adoption of their organising model working for Unite?

As an EC member are the EC challenging the performance of the organising department and holding it to account?

Demos said...

Further to my query see what Unison NEC members are starting to ask in relation to their Union's relationship with SEIU:

Some questions more relevant to Unison than Unite but the replies will be interesting.

Ian said...

It's healthy that there should be a debate about organising strategy - it's crucial for our future. I think it's great that unions are trying to grasp this nettle, but none are getting it perfect.

Frankly Demos, your comments seem more like an attempt to plug an obscure web site obsessed with the SEIU than any constructive contribution to the debate about how we can do better.

I'll continue to post genuine comments, whether I agree with them or not, but future posts which don't really say anything apart from trying to generate web traffic will be blocked.