Union democracy

Tackling the union bureaucracies

Published on: Wed, 08/01/2020 - 11:22
Author

Bob Carnegie

Trade union organisation has always tended to centre in the better-off sections of the working class. But that tendency has been sharpened in the neoliberal era by increased inequality within the working class, and union organisation receding into more limited “bastions”.

In Australia — and in general — trade unions have been able to hold on to a degree in some strongholds, but in my working life, 45 years now, the influence of trade unions in society has markedly decreased.

Unions have become much more bureaucratic.

Most union leaders put the trends down to the anti-union laws which have been

"Get out of jail free” for bullying bosses?

Published on: Wed, 18/12/2019 - 09:07
Author

Patrick Murphy

On 5 December, a slightly revised version of an agreement between the National Education Union (NEU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) was put to the NEU National Executive for approval.

That agreement had been used in June, as I’ll describe, to sink an NEU dispute at Harbinger primary school in East London.

Kirstie Paton, one of the four Executive members representing Inner London, where the strike took place, moved an objection to reject the agreement and I seconded it. We reminded the Executive of the Harbinger story and emphasised the flat-out contradiction between the

New university strikes from 20 February

Published on: Wed, 18/12/2019 - 09:01

A sectoral conference for University and College Union (UCU) members working in universities in the USS pension scheme, where workers struck in November and December, has voted for an escalation of the strike, passing a proposal to strike for two weeks from 20 February.

The Higher Education Committee of the union will now ratify that proposal.

That does leave a big gap between the end of the last strike and the next, but many universities have exams through January, so striking then wouldn’t have any impact on teaching. Negotiations are ongoing; the fact of a further planned strike will

GMB rules hamper democracy

Published on: Wed, 23/10/2019 - 08:35
Author

Dale Street

Ballot papers have been sent out to GMB members in the union’s General Secretary election, a choice between the incumbent Tim Roache and the union’s European Officer, Kathleen Walker-Shaw.

That an election is taking place at all is an achievement.

In previous elections only 30 nominations were needed to get onto the ballot paper. But last year’s GMB conference agreed to increase the number of nominations by two thirds, raising the number to 50.

The GMB’s rules also make it notoriously difficult, and deliberately so, for anyone who is not already a union full-timer – such as an incumbent

UVW reinvents the wheel?

Published on: Wed, 16/10/2019 - 08:23
Author

Will Stephenson

The AGM of United Voices of the World (UVW), on 5 October, packed out the meeting hall, with nearly 10% of the membership turning up.

There was no delegate system. Anybody could come and take part in the embryonic UVW democracy.

I’m happy to give a certain amount of leeway to UVW. They are a relatively new union that has often deployed effective, aggressive industrial tactics and organised previously “unorganisable” workers into a fighting force to turn the tide against outsourcing at universities around London.

The launch of Sex, Cultural, Design, Architecture and Charity worker sections this

IWGB debates democracy

Published on: Wed, 19/06/2019 - 10:05
Author

Zack, delegate to IWGB AGM

This is the second part of a report on the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union’s AGM on 8 June (first part in Solidarity 510, see here).

The AGM committed IWGB working closely with – and trying to revitalise – the wider labour movement, but voted against changes which would have made the union significantly more democratic.

Submitted by a sympathiser of Workers’ Liberty, the first motion stated that “IWGB is part of the broad labour movement… direct coordination and links between unions, at rank-and-file level, is essential for developing workers’ struggles and building

PCS leadership censured for evasions on trans rights

Published on: Fri, 24/05/2019 - 23:25
Author

A conference delegate

Motion A21 at the 2019 conference of civil service union PCS dealt with the leadership's approach to trans rights. (See the motions document, p12.)

In 2017 and 2018 conference voted to support amendment of the Gender Recognition to facilitate self-identification; despite opposition from the NEC in 2017 these motions passed overwhelmingly.

This year A21 condemned and proposed censure of the NEC for its response and for General Secretary Mark Serwotka’s unilateral signatory of a letter published in the Morning Star, alongside numerous vehemently trans-exclusionary individuals, suggesting that

Industrial officials are never wrong?

Published on: Wed, 27/02/2019 - 09:24
Author

Ann Field

“We, the lay members of PULS, stand in solidarity with our left officers and organisers. We know they will always do the right thing.” So says a recent open letter recently from “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS), a faction in Unite the Union launched in 2016 because of the supposed demise of the existing United Left Scotland (ULS).

PULS purports to be an organisation committed to a lay member-led trade union. But if the bureaucrats are always right, who needs the rank-and-file? Although signed off by the PULS chair, the letter is in the characteristic style of Mark Lyon, who set up

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 13/02/2019 - 11:23

A joint union day of action against outsourcing has been called for Tuesday 26 February, 8 a.m. to noon in London. It is sponsored by the IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain, a small new union focused on precarious workers), United Voices of the World (UVW, an organisation similar to IWGB), the BEIS Branch of the PCS civil service union, and the Bakerloo and Finsbury Park branches of the rail union RMT.

The demonstration will coincide with the day the IWGB is facing the government and the University of London in a landmark legal case. If successful, the case could open the door for the

Fighting fire in the class struggle

Published on: Wed, 26/12/2018 - 22:56
Author

Sacha Ismail

In 2018 the Fire Brigades Union, which organises operational firefighters, fire control staff, fire brigade officers and others in the UK fire and rescue service, celebrated its hundredth anniversary as an independent union. For its centenary the FBU has published a book, Fighting Fire, about the last thirty years of its history.

(For centenary resources on the FBU website, see www.fbu.org.uk/centenary. For an interview focused on this that FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack did with The Clarion in May, see 'One hundred years of the Fire Brigades Union'.)

The FBU is a fairly small union (today

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