Thursday 17 April 2014

Report from UNITE Special Executive meeting, 17th April 2014

The special Executive Council (EC) meeting dealt with two agenda items only.

Will PCS join UNITE?
Informal discussions have been taking place between UNITE and PCS over a possible “transfer of engagements”, which would mean PCS joining UNITE rather than a merger.

Len presented the following report:

Following a decision of the Executive Council, informal talks have been taking place with PCS on exploring a transfer of that union’s engagements into Unite.

Unite’s team has included the Chair of the Executive Council, executive officers and senior lay colleagues.  PCS’s team has been led by its General Secretary and has included lay EC members.  The talks have covered the constitutional, industrial, political and administrative questions which would arise from joining Unite.

Separately, the Executive Director for Finance has met his opposite number at PCS to consider financial, pension and property issues.

On this basis, there seems to be no impediment to opening formal talks on a transfer of engagements which would bring PCS into Unite.  Specifically:

  • No significant revision of Unite’s rules would be required and the transfer of engagements will be on the basis of our existing rule book.
  • Subject to the resolution of pensions issues between PCS and the Pensions Regulator, there are no obvious financial issues that would obstruct a transfer (due diligence will nevertheless have to be completed before any final agreement is brought before the Council).
  • No change to Unite’s political affiliations will be sought or considered in the context of the formal discussions
  • Short-term transitional arrangements will suffice to ensure the full and complete integration of the PCS membership into Unite’s existing structures
In this context, and bearing in mind the significant industrial, organisational and political advantages that would accrue to Unite as a result of such a transfer, in terms above all of the consolidation of fighting trade unionism across the public sector, it is recommended that authority be given to open formal talks with PCS to that end.

Following a discussion, the EC agreed to authorise formal negotiations with PCS.  Len McCluskey was at pains to point out that this does not mean that the transfer will necessarily take place – there is lots to sort out and both unions will have issues and concerns that need to be addressed.  Len was clear that he didn’t expect to see a change to UNITE’s timetable for internal elections and conference (PCS do this annually rather than on a 3 or 2 year cycle), nor to UNITE’s affiliation to the Labour Party.  EC members were keen to avoid another period of major turmoil as experienced in some previous mergers.

Len expects that if it all goes smoothly, the timetable might be something along these lines:

  • UNITE EC kept informed about negotiations, consultation particularly with public sector membership but also sectors such as GPM&IT which overlap with the PCS Commercial sector
  • Report on progress to PCS conference in late May, seeking approval to call a special conference later in the year
  • Once there is a specific proposal, UNITE EC decides whether to proceed
  • PCS special conference around July-August decides whether to ballot PCS members
  • PCS ballots its membership around September
  • PCS joins UNITE from January 2015
Sale of Esher Place

UNITE had received a substantial offer to purchase Esher Place, one of our residential training centres.  In a lengthy discussion it was clear that many EC members had concerns and unanswered questions about the proposed sale, and it was agreed to leave the proposal on the table.

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