Unite Rank and File National Committee: Constitution and Rules

1)    Aims

The Unite Rank and File National Committee (hereinafter referred to as “the Committee”) aims to:

  1. Build solidarity;
  2. Encourage resistance and make our union do more to encourage it;
  3. Put activists in touch with each other, share information and ideas;
  4. Champion independent workers’ organisation and challenge the toxic “in partnership with management” culture so widespread in Unite;
  5. Support the development of rank and file networks and campaigning initiatives throughout our union;
  6. Campaign to reform and reinvigorate Unite’s democratic structures to promote a bottom-up culture where members participate, challenge discrimination and are in control;
  7. Campaign to change Unite policies in the interests of the working class;

2)    Organisation

  1. Supporters of Unite Rank and File who are members of Unite (or its successors) and not employed by a union are eligible to be members of the Committee
  2. The Committee may define minimum levels of financial contribution for Supporters
  3. Officers, other members of the Committee, and an Auditor will be elected by Supporters of Unite Rank and File or, where there are vacancies, may be co-opted by the Committee
  4. The term of office for Committee members is until the next annual meeting of Unite Rank and File Supporters, which will normally be held in the last quarter of the year
  5. Meetings may take place in person or by electronic means
  6. A record of all meetings must be kept
  7. Decisions will be taken by a simple majority vote, and may be at a meeting or otherwise
  8. At least once a year, normally at the first meeting of the year, the Committee will approve the audited accounts for the previous year
  9. Meetings will take place when:
    1. Called by one of the Co-Chairs, or
    2. Agreed by a meeting of Committee members, or
    3. Agreed by a majority of the Officers
  10. Cheque signatories will be the Treasurer, the Co-Chairs, and such other Committee members as the Committee decides
  11. All expenditure shall require two signatures, neither of which may be the payee, a member of their immediate family or someone with the same address
  12. Receipts for all expenditure should be provided to the Treasurer where practicable
  13. The Auditor may not be a member of the Committee

3)    Roles

  1. The Officers will include two Co-Chairs (at least one female), an Editor, Assistant Editors, Treasurer, a Solidarity Coordinator and such other positions as the Committee may decide.
  2. The duties of the Co-Chairs shall be to arrange and notify Committee members of meetings; to chair meetings; to secure agreement of the Committee to the agenda for discussion at each meeting; to secure a full and frank discussion of all matters of contention and an expeditious conduct of uncontentious business.
  3. The Editor and Assistant Editors are responsible for public communication including a web site, social media, email newsletters and leaflets, subject to guidelines approved by the Committee. Where the Editorial team consider a decision contentious, they may decide to refer it to the Officers or to the Committee.
  4. Coordinators covering regions, sectors, equality strands, retired and community members, will, in their parts of Unite, encourage people to become Unite Rank and File Supporters, feed in reports and requests for solidarity, build solidarity, campaign etc. and encourage local networking. Unless the Committee decides otherwise, the Coordinators are not Officers. There will be up to two Coordinators for each area, providing that if there is more than one then at least one must not be male.
  5. The Solidarity Coordinator will gather information about disputes and campaigns and action that can be taken to support them. They will provide this information to the editorial team for dissemination, and work with Coordinators to organise solidarity.
  6. The Committee may delegate decisions to the Officers. In such cases the decisions must be reported to the whole Committee no later than its next meeting.
  7. Decisions to spend money may be taken by the Committee or, if less than £100 in a month, by the Officers.
  8. The duties of the Treasurer shall be to receive and bank all monies due to the Committee; to pay all liabilities incurred by the Committee; to reimburse the Officers and Committee members any expenses they properly incur in carrying out the approved duties assigned to them; to report on the group’s financial position; to prepare an annual income and expenditure account and balance sheet, which shall be presented to the first Committee meeting in each calendar year. The Treasurer shall submit the annual income and expenditure account and balance sheet, together with all relevant paperwork (e.g. the cash book, bank statements and all receipts and copies of invoices), to the Auditor at least one month before the membership meeting at which the annual financial report will be presented.
  9. Audited accounts will be made available within a reasonable time to any Supporter, after redaction of any names that may be required for data protection reasons. All Committee members will be asked to agree to their names being unredacted.
  10. The duties of the Auditor shall be to conduct annually an audit of the financial records maintained by the Treasurer and to certify whether the income and expenditure account and balance sheet prepared by the Treasurer are a true and correct record of the financial transactions and a true and correct statement of the financial position of the group.
  11. The Committee may agree to allow an Officer to delegate part of their duties where appropriate.
  12. Where roles are shared, only one of the people sharing a role can vote on any decision.

4)    Dissolution

The Committee shall be dissolved by a resolution of a special Committee meeting called for this purpose.  Not less than fourteen days’ notice shall be given by a Co-Chair to all Committee members of a meeting at which a motion to dissolve the Committee shall be considered.  The notice of the meeting shall contain the terms of the motion to dissolve the group.

5)    Changes to rules

These rules may be amended by a resolution of a special Committee meeting called for this purpose.  Not less than fourteen days’ notice shall be given by a Co-Chair to all Committee members of a meeting at which one or more motions to amend the rules shall be considered. The notice of the meeting shall contain the terms of the motions to amend the rules of the Committee.

London members’ meeting

 

Unite rank and file icon

Come to our meetup of London members on Tuesday 13th August from 7 pm.

Members of Unite Rank and File in London will be meeting up at The Dame Alice Owen, 292 Saint John Street, Clerkenwell, LONDON EC1V 4PA.

For full details visit our Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/2556488434361922/

Leaflet for Unite Rules Conference

Delegates meet in Brighton for Unite’s Rules Conference this week. The new Unite Rank & File leaflet covers the need for resistance to the jobs massacre and to link it to tackling the climate emergency, defending migrants’ rights, sexual harassment and bullying within Unite, some of the proposed rule changes, and the need for solidarity with the indefinite strike at Colloids for the reinstatement of George Gore.

Image of the leaflet

Support the indefinite strike at Colloids #ReinstateGeorge

Unite members at Colloids in Kirkby are in their fifth week of an indefinite strike which began on 20 May for the reinstatement of their victimised rep George Gore. Let’s make sure it feels like they have a million members behind them.

#ReinstateGeorge
Sacked Unite rep George Gore on the picket outside Colloids, Kirkby

Management claim George was sacked for a safety breach, but Unite and workers say that managers are guilty of frequent safety infringements but go unpunished. Workers see the dismissal as an attack on the union. A solidarity rally on 19 June swelled the pickets and no trucks attempted deliveries. Pickets say production has stopped due to the strike, despite un-unionised office staff and a few scabs going in. The strike and increasing leverage activities have brought the company to the table, but workers are determined to stay out until George is reinstated.

Car stopped by picketsPickets, gazebo, banner and flags

Show your support at the 24 hour pickets at Colloids Limited, 10 Kirkby Bank Road, Knowsley, L33 7SY. You can send messages of support to garryg0411@gmail.com. Updates are being posted on the Unite North West Facebook page. Donations payable to “Unite NW/84 Alpla branch” can be sent to Pat Coyne, Unite the union, 100 Hallgate, Wigan, WN1 1HP. Share support for the disputes on social media using #ReinstateGeorge. The image below can be printed for solidarity photos.

I'm supporting striking Colloids workers #ReinstateGeorge

Call to action for a climate general strike

The release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last autumn was a game changer in laying bare how serious the climate crisis is and how little time we have to turn things around. In the wake of Extinction Rebellion and the massive global school strikes, a call has now been made for a global general strike on the week of the 20th September.

Crowd of young people with banners and placards

Lecturers’ union UCU and bakers’ union BFAWU have already announced their support. We believe its time for Unite to play a leading role in the campaign to stop runaway climate change. As the country’s largest union we should throw our weight behind this campaign and build for the biggest possible strike against the climate crisis in September. The Unite executive meets shortly and we hope they will issue a statement supporting members who want to join the global strike. Striking isn’t easy and every workplace needs support to take the maximum action they can – whatever that is.

UNITE Executive Council votes to increase strike pay

Earlier this year, the UNITE Executive Council voted to significantly increase strike pay (Dispute Benefit). All members now engaged in strike action will receive Dispute Benefit of £50 per day from day one, an increase from £35 previously.

Pickets holding flags
Photo: Mitie Sellafield pickets, Michelle Smith on Facebook

This is unrivalled in the trade union movement. It sends a strong message to those companies intent on exploiting their workforce, that UNITE members will be financially as well as industrially supported and should provide even more confidence and encouragement to members needing to take such action to achieve their objective.

Rules Conference agenda is now out

The agenda for Rules Conference is now out. Delegates and other interested members can access it here:

Final Agenda – Rules Conference 2019

 

UNITE Rank and File National Meeting June 2019

Unite Rank and File is holding a National Meeting from 12.30pm until 4.30pm on Saturday 1 June 2019 at the Wood Green Social Club3-4 Stuart Crescent, Wood Green, London, N22 5NJ

If you are attending, please register here

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/urf-national-meeting-june-2019-tickets-62720885858

If you wish to stand for any of the committee positions, please see list of positions below

We are holding this important meeting in the run-up to Unite’s Rules Conference, due to take place at the end of June. We’ll be talking about how we can put democratising our union on the Conference agenda and what outcomes we want from it.

Our guest speakers will be Suzanne Jeffreys from Campaign Against Climate Change and.Sam Mason from Waltham Forest SERA

The full agenda for the day is as follows:

  • Welcome and introduction
  • Elections to the Committee
  • Preparations for Rules Conference
  • Building Unite Rank and File
  • Unite and the Fight against Climate Change
  • Organising strike solidarity
  • Any other business

The meeting is open to all Unite members who want to see a fighting rank and file members’ movement.

There will be a pooled fare system in operation

We hope to see you all there.

Best wishes and solidarity!

Unite Rank and File Steering Committee

COMMITTEE POSITIONS FOR ELECTIONS

Co-chair x 2
Editor
Assistant Editor
Assistant Editor
Assistant Editor
Assistant Editor
Solidarity Coordinator
Treasurer
Coordinator East Midlands
Coordinator London & Eastern
Coordinator South West
Coordinator West Midlands
Coordinator Aerospace & Shipbuilding
Coordinator Community Youth Workers & Not For Profit
Coordinator Community Youth Workers & Not For Profit
Coordinator Engineering Manufacturing & Steel
Coordinator Finance & Legal
Coordinator Passenger Services
Coordinator Retired Members
Coordinator Black Asian &*Ethnic Minorities
Coordinator Women
Deputy (for Retired members)

Your chance to democratise Unite and raise participation

Though not a subject of hot debate amongst most members, Unite’s rulebook has a big influence over how the union operates, including how decisions are taken, who takes them, and when. The rulebook shapes the democracy and participation which are vital to union strength. In 2019 a Rules Conference, which only happens every four years, gives you an opportunity to change the rules and strengthen our union. The conference is 24-28 June, but the deadline for proposals is 1 March.

Image of Unite Rulebook coverEvery Unite branch and constitutional committee (so that includes sector committees, equality committees, area activists and regional committees and retired members’ committees) can submit one rule amendment on this form by 1 March 2019 so you need to get proposals drafted and in to your branch or committee soon. Branches don’t send delegates to Rules Conference, they come from constitutional committees, who may elect them at the same meeting where rule amendments are decided. Conference itself takes place 24-28 June in Brighton.

Unite Rank & File campaigns to reform and reinvigorate Unite’s democratic structures to promote a bottom-up culture where members participate, challenge discrimination and are in control. Some ideas for rule amendments are in the report from our recent national meeting.

If you are thinking of putting in a rule amendment, or standing as a delegate to Rules Conference, why not get in touch so activists can work together?

Report from Unite Rank & File national meeting

On Saturday 24 November 2018 supporters of Unite Rank & File from around the country met in London to discuss our work so far and make plans.

Unite rank and file iconProgress so far

Meetings in Glasgow, Manchester, London and Birmingham in May 2017 had agreed a volunteer team to get Unite Rank & File up and running. We launched on 31 October 2017 with this web site, a Facebook page and Twitter account. On a shoestring of human and financial resources the group has, in just over a year:

  • Produced a leaflet for Unite Sector Conferences November 2017 highlighting solidarity with disputes at Mears/Manchester Working Limited, Arriva North West, Fujitsu and Capita
  • Encouraged motions and amendments to Policy conference 2018, explaining a process left opaque by Unite
  • Organised solidarity with Mears / MWL outsourced housing maintenance workers, who won 20% pay rises
  • Encouraged people to stand for workplace and branch positions, explaining a process left opaque by Unite
  • Opposed the NHS pay deal (a deal which, in the RCN, led to no confidence in the leadership)
  • Argued against Unite seeking immunity for discrimination by lay officials against members and employees
  • Highlighted officer collusion in blacklisting and the failure to act on evidence
  • Produced a leaflet for Unite Policy Conference in July 2018 which: opposed popular and state racism, including the FLA and Windrush; championed migrant rights and free movement; built solidarity with Wigan NHS and TGI Fridays; backed diversification and renewable energy; opposed climate change; opposed partnership; pushed for sectors to have fewer more focussed officers; argued for activists to be able to communicate with members (against EC pretence that GDPR prevented this); backed direct action training and strike funds; backed dignity at work, opposed sexual harassment and domestic abuse; backed trans rights; supported equality processes for recruitment to Unite jobs – including stand down officers; challenged low pay for young workers; demanded action on disability and sickness policies; supported work on mental health and workload; sought opposition to cuts and privatisation from local authorities; supported a shorter working week
  • Inside the conference, Unite Rank & File supporters played a key role in debates on free movement; opposing Tommy Robinson and the (D)FLA; overturning the EC on lay member communication; pushing improvements to Unite policy on defence diversification
  • Defended free speech on Palestine and opposed use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism
  • Promoted solidarity and publicised wins with numerous disputes and campaigns including Cammel Laird, Vauxhall Ellesmere Port, Street Crane Chapel En Le Frith, for trans rights, archaeologists in Ireland, NHS pay in Northern Ireland, against Universal Credit, Prysmian Cables, TGI Fridays, anti-racist demonstrations, climate change, Google, fracking, Appledore shipyard, Glen Dimplex Northern Ireland, saving libraries, Fast Food Shutdown, Luton airport, Kent NHS, period dignity, cladding on tower blocks, York NHS, Communisis, Hillingdon Dave Guilfoyle victimisation, free speech on Palestine, East Midlands buses, Total north sea oil, Birmingham home care, blacklisting, Wigan NHS, NHS, Ryanair, East Dunbartonshire Council, Gaza, Fujitsu, Bentley Crewe, First Bus Aberdeen, Bromley libraries, Mariner north sea oil, Leeds NHS, Hinkley C, Workers’ Memorial Day, Sutton tankers, reinstate Ian Allinson, Cummins Stamford, First Bus Manchester, Sellafield, Crossrail electricians, Glasgow Life / Emirates, Hanafi / Tower Transit, Mears Manchester, Canute Haulage Suffolk, harassment in hospitality, Birmingham bins, BiFab occupation, anti Trident replacement, Arriva bus Liverpool, bus pay and safety, employment rights, Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, National Grid US lockout, union rights, abortion rights in Northern Ireland, HE pay campaign, Deeside Clugston, working time, BA Mixed Fleet, Manchester airport, Bank of England, benefit sanctions, Chivas, Barts hospital, BSL interpreters

While an impressive start, the initial focus had been on getting central organisation and online presence up and running so there had been a lack of email bulletins and leaflets, local and sectoral organisation, too few reports from pickets and protests, and most of the people who support Unite Rank & File still haven’t actually signed up. In addition, we are still too widely seen as linked to a General Secretary candidacy, despite our launch statement and subsequent actions making clear that is not what we are about.

The future of Unite Rank & File

A genuine rank and file movement can only be built through workers struggle against their employers but we can contribute towards this process by, for example, pulling together people who see the need for such a movement, encouraging solidarity, publicising victories, encouraging resistance and pushing Unite to do more, putting activists in touch with each other, sharing information and ideas, challenging the “in partnership with management” approach, campaigning to reform and reinvigorate Unite’s democratic structures to promote a bottom-up culture where members participate, challenge discrimination and are in control, and championing radical policies even when Unite fudges on them.

We’d welcome more people involved in contributing to this web site and other publications. As well as more solidarity appeals and reports (videos are great!) there was discussion about the difficulty of finding relevant information on the Unite web site, and the way information rarely reaches out beyond those on constitutional committees. We want to gradually make this site a “go-to” place for activists by reporting or signposting relevant information. If you are on a constitutional committee, you could consider after each meeting sending in a few key pieces of information or news that activists more generally might value?

There was a lot of anger over the approach Unite had taken at Labour conference. While the left and most constituency Labour Parties had wanted to debate open selection (sitting MPs not being automatically reselected as candidates), Unite had voted to prevent this, despite it being our policy. Unite had also supported a mechanism for leadership elections which still gives MPs an effective veto over candidates but increases the ability of unions to block candidates.

Unite has a tendency to fudge key issues, for example it’s support for Palestinian rights while backing the use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism in the Labour Party, which will curtails non-racist free speech on Palestine. People felt that this example, like the ones on diversification and workers’ rights to live and work where we like, meant there was an important role for Unite Rank & File in speaking out clearly for left policies.

Unite’s industrial approach varies widely, but there were concerns about a focus on short-term “jobs at any price” rather than diversification, concession bargaining, and a willingness to trade union recognition for industrial peace. The need for diversification to good sustainable jobs was highlighted by the threats to jobs at Appledore shipyard, Cammell Laird, Rosyth and Vauxhall Ellesmere Port. Failure to take the initiative on diversification will leave hundreds of thousands of members vulnerable if action to tackle climate change happens on employers’ terms rather than based on our demands for a “just transition” to a low carbon or no carbon economy which can mean many new good jobs.

Members remain concerned about blacklisting and the lack of progress in tackling union officer collusion in it, particularly with the influx of officers from the former UCATT. In construction this is leading some members to “dual card” being members of other unions including the IWGB.

Some key barriers to democracy and accountability were discussed. Members have to get through many layers of Unite’s structure to get things decided or done – and it is often unclear what route through the structure to take. The timescales are very slow, especially if some of the meetings at different layers are inquorate or officers mislay paperwork or information which can cause three months’ delay each time. Community members are still excluded from most of the union’s structures, including having delegates to the Rules Conference which will decide whether to address this. Some workplace-based activists are afraid of losing control of the union to community activists, but it was pointed out that Unite already has facilities to ensure representation is proportionate to membership, so no section of members can dominate. For Rules Conference 2019 Unite Rank & File will encourage rule amendments to increase democracy, participation and accountability.

Concern was raised that the national Equalities Conferences due early in 2019 have been postponed a year.

Rules Conference 2019

We want to discuss ideas for rule change motions now. The timetable for branches and committees to submit motions is expected to be announced around the end of the year.

Ideas discussed were:

  • Stop full time officers dealing with employers over the heads of lay representatives outside specific circumstances set out in a protocol
  • Define routes for remits to be sent through the structure
  • Address lack of democratic rights for community and retired members
  • Enable equality committees to vote annually on whether to fill vacancies with activists who haven’t yet been elected as reps or branch officers, to provide a route for people who face barriers to getting elected to build up their knowledge and experience
  • Help officer accountability by stopping the buck being passed between regions and sectors
  • Any proposal to close a branch should be voted on by its members
  • Ban union employees (other than candidates) campaigning in internal Unite elections
  • Change General Secretary elections from First Past The Post to Single Transferable Vote to encourage more candidates and more diverse candidates and help ensure debates are on the issues affecting members not speculation about splitting the vote
  • Accountability of officers at TUC and Labour Party conferences
  • Extend equality proportionality to Labour Party Liaison Committeees

Equal Pay, the Gender Pay Gap and the Glasgow council strike

The inspiring strike by 8000 UNISON members had seen solidarity action by around 600 (mainly GMB) refuse workers. An NEU teacher had been suspended for refusing to cross a picket line but was now back at work following a campaign.

The Glasgow council strike was the biggest equal pay strike for many years and had done a lot to raise the profile of the issue. The solidarity action was important in proving this can be done – despite the anti-union legislation. The strike also helped inspire the tens of thousands of Scottish teachers who marched, and a four-day unofficial postal strike in Hamilton.

The strike came in the context of the #MeToo movement, the campaign for abortion rights in Ireland, the walkouts at Google over sexual harassment and discrimination, and the big role of sexual harassment in hospitality in stoking the fast food strikes.

Though many employers are treating the publication of the Gender Pay Gap data as a “tick in the box”, it provides valuable information about employers which can be used in campaigning and bargaining. In some cases, reps are finding out that their employers have been misleading them about pay. Gender Pay Gaps are often about job segregation, not just unequal pay for similar work or work of equal value.

There was frustration that a lot of union communication about equality is about committee composition or meetings. We want to do more to promote efforts to fight discrimination and oppression.

Last year’s Unite Policy Conference had seen Motion 65 on International Women’s Day remitted to the EC on the basis of assurances that the EC would act on it. The motion resolved:

  • To call a 2.5 hour strike on the 8th of March 2019 symbolising the two and a half times more social reproductive labour women undertake than men highlighted in the International Labour Organisation report.
  • The demands of the strike will be extended access to free childcare, the reversal of all austerity cuts to women’s services and the creation of a National Care Service which is free at the point of delivery, has equal standing to the NHS and is funded from progressive taxation at the national level to avoid the entrenchment of regional inequalities.
  • To call a national demonstration working alongside women’s charities and campaigns.
  • For the EC to contact the TUC and other unions encouraging wider participation in the strike.
  • For National Officers, Equalities Officers and all union structures and committees to promote and encourage active participation in the strike and demonstration.

In recent years there has been a small revival in strike activity on International Women’s Day. Inspired by Polish women’s strike against plans to criminalise abortion and miscarriage on 3 October 2016 and an international wave of protests, the International Women’s Strike now involves more than fifty countries. In most countries there is insufficient organisation to strike paid employment, though more than five million struck in Spain last year.

We agreed to push Unite for action over Motion 65. Even if we can’t deliver strikes in most workplaces, there will be plenty with live issues of sexual harassment and discrimination that could be balloted and provide a focal point to force attention and action on these key issues – just as the Glasgow strikers did.

Disputes and campaigns

Keep an eye on our Facebook page in particular for updates about disputes and campaigns.

Organisation

We decided we will ask supporters to make a regular financial contribution of at least £2 (£1 unwaged) per month, more if you can afford it. This will both provide more stable finances for our activities and provide clarity for  democratic processes. We elected a treasurer who will oversee setting up a suitable bank account. Unite Rank & File’s committee (see below) will appoint two auditors who are not committee members.

We elected an editor and four assistant editors who will oversee our web site, social media, email newsletters and leaflets on a day to day basis.

We elected two co-chairs (one female) and want up to two coordinators (at least one female) for each region, sector, equality strand, young members, community members and retired members. These will encourage people to sign up to Unite Rank & File in their bit of the union; feed in ideas, appeals for support, reports etc; circulate Unite Rank & File materials; and get people together where appropriate.

We elected people into some of these coordinator positions, plus an overall solidarity coordinator.

Unite Rank & File’s committee will comprise the various officers and coordinators, and it was charged with co-opting additional coordinators where needed.

Get involved

Please sign up to Unite Rank & File if you haven’t already, like our Facebook page (and choose the “see first” option under “Following”), follow us on Twitter, and send in appeals for support, reports and your ideas.