Wednesday 1 July 2015

Stop the power grab at Unite Rules Conference

Unite's leadership is engaged in an anti-democratic power grab and delegates need to be ready to put a stop to it.

Unite's Rules Conference starts on Monday and delegates have been sent a 160 page book of motions to change our rule book.  The sheer number of motions from our Executive Council (EC) is striking.  I understand that all or nearly all of these motions were not in fact proposed to the EC by its elected lay members, but rather by the full-time "executive officers" - of which Len McCluskey is the only elected member.

So far, so typically top-down.  But things get rapidly worse when you see the draft Standing Orders that the EC intends to propose to the Rules Conference.  There's a shiny new Standing Order 8.2 which we've never needed before.  It says:

"Should a Motion to amend the Rules submitted by the Executive Council be included in any grouping of Motions it shall be voted upon first and, if carried, all other Motions in that group shall fall. In any reply, the EC speaker shall speak at the conclusion of the debate." [my emphasis]
As the EC have submitted motions to loads of the groups, this means that unless conference rejects this Standing Order or votes down most of the EC's rules motions (most of which are harmless enough) then most of the motions from branches and constitutional committees will be tossed out without conference having the chance to vote on them.

It's worth being clear that this proposed new approach is far worse than the (bad enough) "Executive Statement" ruse that has become so popular for dodging contentious issues at Policy Conference.  In the past conferences still got the chance to vote on motions even if they passed an EC statement, unless the SOC and Chair decided that the subject matter of the motion was completely covered by the statement.  The old approach already gave the EC massive power over conference, as they can submit EC statements after seeing all the motions, where other bodies have to do it months in advance, and they get the last right of reply and the first vote.  The proposed new approach would give the EC the right to knock out motions which are unrelated to their own, as long as they are in the same grouping.

Rule 12.10 gives the EC the right to "draft the standing orders".  Delegates will be presented with a draft.  If they value their right to decide on motions for themselves rather than having them tossed out by the EC (which all too often means unelected executive officers), delegates should not accept the proposed standing orders without a change.  Better still, lobby your EC members to fix this before it is presented to conference.  Don't rely on any message to EC members sent via the General Secretary ever reaching them - you need to contact them directly.  Does our leadership really want to start conference by getting into a fight with delegates?

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