Wednesday 1 August 2012

UNITE's Regional Conferences - make them a priority

Over the next few weeks, UNITE activists should receive invitations to Regional Industrial Sector Conferences, Regional Equality Conferences and Area Activist Meetings - all to take place during September.  I've previously posted the timetable and more explanation of the meetings.

UNITE has created a web page which is gradually being populated with details of the various conferences including dates, times and venues.

The union's records of who is a rep or branch officer are far from 100% accurate, so I would urge all activists to contact your UNITE Regional Office as soon as possible to check that your activist positions are correctly recorded on the membership system, along with any equalities category you belong to.

Unfortunately the official invitation letter that will go out is a bit heavy on jargon and doesn't really explain why a busy activist in a workplace ought to prioritise getting along to the conferences.  Many of the structures don't work as well as they should at the moment because participation is patchy.  Below is my attempt at an explanation in relation to the regional industrial sector conferences.  Very similar arguments and arrangements apply to the Equality Conferences and Area Meetings.

Regional Industrial Sector Conferences - why bother?

UNITE is a very diverse union, organising everyone from vicars to bar-workers.  This is a real strength in terms of the reach of UNITE’s campaigning, but could mean the priorities of members in particular industries don’t get the focus they deserve.  To avoid this problem, UNITE organises in industrial “sectors” such as “IT & Communications”.  The sectors are listed here.

Everyone knows that managers and HR people from different employers get together to exchange information and ideas, and many of them move from employer to employer during their careers.  Everyone knows that what one employer in the sector does today, others will try tomorrow.  To avoid always being one step behind the employers, UNITE reps in the sector need to get together too.  To face up to the range and scale of issues facing members in the current economic climate we can’t afford to be isolated, ill-informed or disorganised.

UNITE’s sector structures allow us to meet, to exchange news and views, to learn from each other,  and to plan campaigns.  They receive reports from the wider union so we can understand how to access resources and support.  They are a crucial part of UNITE’s democratic structures so we can decide what UNITE does in our sector and influence what UNITE does more generally.  This can make a real practical difference at workplace level, for example in shaping the campaigns we run and the training and organising support available.  Taking part in UNITE’s democratic structures is also important to ensure the people who represent your members are accountable.

To work well, the sector needs participation from as wide a range of employers and workplaces as possible.  This will benefit you, your members, and your counterparts from other workplaces.

The union will pay travel and subsistence expenses in line with the normal policy.

Many reps have difficulty securing release from their employer to attend union meetings.  If you have any difficulty securing release you should contact your Unite Regional Officer.  Because of the importance the union attaches to sector meetings there is a real commitment to helping reps resolve any release issues they may experience.

Regional Industrial Sector Conferences only take place every three years.  However, the conferences will elect a Regional Industrial Sector Committee (RISC) which meets four times a year and which in turn elects delegates to various other parts of the union structure.  In order for the sector to function well it is vital that we elect RISCs that represent as broad a spread of employers and workplaces as possible, so that it can act as an effective forum for the exchange of news, views and experiences and be genuinely representative of the members in the sector.  Please consider standing for election to your RISC.

Details of the nomination process for the RISC should be circulated with the official invitation to the conference.  If you’re willing to take part in the RISC please make sure you send in your nomination – even if you are unable to attend on the date of the conference.  You can also submit a motion relating to the industrial business of the sector to the conference - this has to be submitted in advance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

speaking as a vicar - thanks for the mention!

Adrian Judd