Most of Unite’s structures run on a three-year cycle. Elections for workplace reps and branch officers should now be complete. But unless you act now you could be excluded from the rest of the union’s structures for the next three years.
Between 14 May and 1 June 2018 conferences will be taking place in every region to elect Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs), Regional Equality Committees (REqCs), Area Activists Committees (AACs) and Regional Labour Party Liaison Committees (RLPLCs). This is a crucial step – these committees then elect people onto nearly all the other structures including National Industrial Sector Committees (NISCs), National Equality Committees (NEqCs), Regional Committees (RCs) and the National Labour Party Liaison Committee (NLPLC). They are also part of the route for election to industrial sector, policy and rules conferences, TUC conference and Labour Party conferences.
So if you don’t get on one of these committees (the RISC is particularly important for working members) you are likely to be excluded from most of Unite’s structures for three years, which can be a significant barrier to finding out what’s going on and having your say.
If you haven’t had an invitation to the conferences you are entitled to attend, you should urgently contact your Unite Regional Office. Note that to attend most of the conferences you must be an “accountable representative of workers” under Rule 6. If you want to stand for any of the committees, you should submit a nomination in advance from a branch of workplace – the relevant form should be provided with your invitation. If you don’t manage to do this, there’s still a significant chance you could stand for election at the conference itself, if (as is all too common) insufficient nominations have been received by the deadline.
It is important that you elect people who are actually going to turn up most of the time. The March 2018 Executive Council (EC) meeting clarified that the quorum for RISCs and AACs is 50% + 1 of those elected, so vacant seats don’t count against you as much as people elected who don’t show up. Vacancies can be filled during the three-year term but you often have to push for this. The EC also decided that if membership of a RISC or AAC should fall below five people, it will be linked with another Committee so that it can continue to function.
It’s normal for the relevant Committee to meet immediately after the Conference that elected it, and to elect its chair and delegates to other parts of the union structure.
Each branch and committee now has the opportunity to submit one amendment to a motion. Your amendment has to be in by Friday 11 May 2018.
Amendments can’t change the overall thrust of a motion or be on an unrelated topic. They are useful to improve or correct problems in otherwise good motions, or to add points that may have been missed or which arose after the original motion was submitted.
The motion numbers may change in the final agenda, and many related motions and amendments are likely to be “composited” (merged) before they are debated.
The conference itself will take place 2-6 July in Brighton.
Unite will be holding its next Policy Conference in Brighton 2-6 July 2018. This is the opportunity for every member to shape our union’s policy. The process is already under way, with branches and committees sending in motions for the conference agenda. If you want to get a motion onto the agenda, you need to act now. Motions have to be agreed by a branch or committee and sent in to Unite HQ no later than 9 February 2018.
Step one is to draft your motion. There are full guidelines here. If you’ve never done it before, don’t be put off, but do ask for help if you need it.
Each branch and each constitutional committee (i.e. Regional & National Industrial Sector Committee; Regional & National Equality Committee, Regional Committee, Area Activist Committee) can submit one motion on any general policy topic (i.e. not about a particular sector and not requiring a change to Unite’s rules). The National Retired Members’ Committee and each Regional Retired Members’ Co-ordinating Committees can also submit one motion each, but these can only be on about matters solely pertaining to members in retirement.
The meetings held round the country before Unite Rank & File launched came up with lots of ideas, including areas where we can campaign to improve union policy. Note that there’s no need to submit motions to restate existing policy – motions should change existing policy or add to it.
Here are some suggestions to get you thinking – feel free to comment with your own ideas or what you’ve already submitted:
Organising / industrial action:
Disputes unit support, focused on winning, not just legal compliance, for all disputes from an early stage
Improve support for company and sub-sector combines
Increasing lay member involvement in organising
Response to the Trade Union Act 2016
Review / overhaul Unite education in the light of government funding cuts
Facility for levies (e.g. for strike funds) by workplace / employer, not just branch – for many members branch doesn’t directly match employer / workplace
Recruitment and organising of migrant workers and refugees
Democracy / accountability:
Review of Unite structures to better support members in multi-region employers
Investigate the role of union officials in blacklisting, and support the Blacklist Support Group
Policy against officers approaching employers over the heads of reps / branch officers
Tackle non-functioning branches so members aren’t left without a functioning branch for long periods
Improve Unite grievance and complaint procedures
Change General Secretary elections to Single Transferable Vote
Ban branches passing member data to campaigns or third parties during Unite elections
Ban Unite employees (other than candidates) from campaigning in Unite elections
Official videoed hustings for Unite elections
Limit the General Secretary’s wage
Facilitation and control of communication with members during union elections
Require disclosure / control over fundraising and expenditure during union elections
Put equality on the agenda of all branch and constitutional committee meetings
Make regional women’s and equality officer roles full time (or job share)
Review equality structures to ensure they are effective in representing each equality group, championing its issues, and promoting participation
Extend the recommendations from the report on women officers in Unite to all employees
Improve equality training for lay and full-time officers, reps and members
Including impact on members without UK citizenship and members working overseas in materials about impact of Brexit on workers’ rights
Workers’ rights to live and work where they want
Trans rights and Gender Recognition
Cuts and privatisation
Councils implementing cuts
Diversification from destructive projects to good, socially useful, jobs
This week Unite members will be meeting in Brighton for our 2017 sector conferences. Unite Rank and File has produced a leaflet explaining what we are and encouraging solidarity with various disputes. If you can, please lend a hand distributing it to delegates and encourage them to sign up for Unite Rank and File.