Member-led Democracy

Back to all Motions

2017 Higher Education Service Group Conference
10 November 2016
Carried as Amended

UNISON takes pride in being a member-led, democratic union. It is in this spirit that conference notes with concern the decision taken by our Higher Education Service Group Executive (HESGE) to overturn the democratic decision taken by our members in the 2016 ballot over pay. This decision also overturned the mandate set at this conference last year.

We believe this decision has significantly weakened our position in negotiations with our employers and that it may discourage those members who did vote from doing so in the future.

Our members must have confidence that UNISON will stand up for them when their pay, pensions, terms and conditions are under threat. If we are to successfully fend off attacks from our employers over pay, and improve our working conditions in relation to other matters, observing the democratic will of our members when we vote on an issue of such importance as industrial action is integral to our negotiating position.

This conference notes:

Firstly, its disappointment that the Higher Education Service Group Executive felt unable to take strike action after securing a ‘yes’ vote in the 2016 pay ballot. Whilst we recognise that the turnout was low, as is often the case, this should not have overridden UNISON’s fundamental principle of being a democratic, member-led union. We further note that the turnout in the 2014 pay ballot, when we took strike action, was similar to the 2016 turnout.

Secondly, whilst we recognise that sometimes collective responsibility for decisions is appropriate, we also acknowledge the frustrations of members who question why a democratic majority decision was overturned. We believe members deserve to know how their elected representatives vote on major issues, such as industrial action.

This conference:

1)Calls on the HESGE to continue efforts to coordinate between unions in the HE pay negotiations, with a view to organising joint action (up to and including lawful industrial action in line with UNISON rules) at key points in the academic calendar, in order to secure a substantial pay increase for our members.

2) Calls on the HESGE to publish the numerical breakdown of votes on significant issues such as industrial action. Allow its members to openly declare how they vote, should they wish to do so.