Political Fund Review

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2002 National Delegate Conference
9 May 2002

The growing anger and frustration of UNISON members at New Labour’s continued attacks on public services, through privatisation, cuts and low wages, was reflected at last year’s National Delegate Conference.

Conference notes that the decision of National Delegate Conference 2001 to review the Union’s political funds was rightly seen by our members and the media as a very important decision. Conference reaffirms the concerns expressed last year that our current arrangements do not appear to enable UNISON to use our political funds effectively in the best interests of our members.

The National Executive Council was instructed to carry out consultation with all parts of the Union and report back to this year’s Conference, including bringing back any necessary rule changes.

Conference therefore censures the National Executive Council for the slow pace of implementation of this important decision, noting that the programme and timetable for consultation with branches was only produced in February 2002, more than seven months after the decision had been taken to start consultation. This Conference believes that there has been a deliberate attempt by the National Executive Council to frustrate the wishes of Conference by failing to carry out consultation in time to report to this year’s Conference. This approach is not acceptable to Conference, and the National Executive Council is instructed to treat this review as an absolute priority in the coming year.

Furthermore, in March 2002, a meeting of staff from regions and members of the National Executive Council Working Group sought to direct staff to ensure that “none of this round of consultation programmes will be motion based. The view of the National Executive Council is that this is a consultation period and that motions will not be taken at any meetings in the country.”

Conference also disagrees with the National Executive Council that branches, regions and group’s should only participate in the official consultation process to the exclusion of all other discussion about the future of the political funds. The National Executive Council is not the sole policy making body in the Union and branches, regions and groups are best placed to decide on methods of consultation. The question of how to ensure effective political representation for the policies and views of trade unions and their members is the subject of debate throughout the trade union movement, and branches, and all other UNISON bodies, can and should participate in this debate wherever it is taking place.

It is clearly critical that the consultation allows for the fullest debate with all options and opinions allowed to be expressed. Conference is concerned that despite the fact that the National Executive Council is bound under rule to carry out conference policy, that it has established a working party that neither reflects the make up of the Union, nor supports the views expressed in Motion 131.

Conference agrees that Conference policy should be carried out and supports the right of branches, regions and groups to do so and instructs the National Executive Council to:

a)Organise a debate on the future of the political fund;

b)Draw up a consultation timetable to ensure Conference policy is carried out;

c)Work with regions to ensure the widest consultation and communication as the review of the political funds continues;

d)Take all steps to facilitate the widest membership participation in the review, including through meetings within and between branches and through the use of information technology;

e)Ensure that all information provided to members during the further consultation period allows equal weight to all sides of the argument to be fairly presented.

Conference also calls upon all branches, regions, service groups and self-organised groups to treat the review of the political funds as a very high priority in the coming year, so that UNISON can develop an approach to our political funds consistent with the needs and interests of our members.