Organising for the Future – UNISON’s Strategy for Inter Union Relations

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2006 National Delegate Conference
3 June 2006

Conference reaffirms UNISON’s founding vision that our Union should organise all employees working directly or indirectly in the provision of public services in the United Kingdom. UNISON believes that strong union organisation is the best way to safeguard quality public services and workplace rights.

Conference notes the continuing merger and realignment of trade unions, nationally and internationally, as unions adapt to public service reforms and economic and social change. In recent years restructuring and workforce remodelling in United Kingdom (UK) public services have resulted in a blurring of occupational and service delivery boundaries.

Conference recognises and welcomes the ongoing work being undertaken by UNISON along with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and other trade unions and specialist and professional organisations organising in public services, in jointly campaigning against cuts in jobs and services, and in seeking to protect public service pension schemes.

Conference believes it is essential to explore all possible means of strengthening the position of workers in all public services in order to ensure that they are best placed to resist further threats to jobs, services, pay and conditions of service.

Conference acknowledges recent UNISON initiatives to develop new forms of union organisation in sectors such as private contractors and the community and voluntary sector as well as attempts to revitalise organisation across under unionised occupational groups such as NHS senior managers.

Conference notes the likely creation of a new super-union by the proposed merger of Amicus, the GMB and the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) and, in the light of this development, believes it is essential that further detailed consideration needs to be given by UNISON in connection with its own organisational structure in order to meet the many challenges ahead. Conference believes that such a review should include consideration of the possibility of opening discussions with other trade unions and specialist and professional organisations organising in public services regarding the need for closer working relationships.

Conference further believes that UNISON must develop closer links with the range of public service trade unions and professional organisations within our existing sphere of influence and negotiating structures.

Therefore, Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)undertake an audit of all trade union and professional organisations operating in the UK public services: differentiating appropriately between:

a)TUC affiliated trades unions;

b)other trades unions;

c)organisations of workers which are not certified trades unions;

d)other organisations which include volunteers, service users, employers, training providers among their members as well as workers; and,

2)devise and implement a strategy for strengthening inter union relations by which UNISON will:

a)form a trade union hub in each sector of the public services to work co-operatively and share resources with other unions and professional organisations on bargaining, campaigning and workforce development agendas;

b)encourage formal association with UNISON of other unions and professional organisations;

c)develop reciprocal membership arrangements with other unions and professional organisations where appropriate;

d)consider ways in which UNISON can optimise resources and organise more effectively to preserve public sector jobs and services and to protect jobs, pay and conditions of service for all members in all services;

e)examine ways in which joint working with other trade unions and specialist and professional organisations organising in public services can best be strengthened;

f)initiate preliminary discussions with those trade unions who work closely with UNISON on bargaining arrangements and other trade unions who interface with UNISON such as the civil service unions, with a view to forming a new public service trade union in order to maximise the organisational strength of trade union members within public service;

g)recommend, based upon researched evidence, effective strategies to ensure the maintenance of strong democratic structures and procedures based upon a “bottom-up” approach to decision making that ensures effective policy making by elected lay members at branch level, and full accountability of paid officials to lay-led bodies.