Sunday, January 18, 2009

SERTUC – Regional Council

Yesterday morning I went to Congress House to take part as a UNISON delegate in the South East Regional Trade Union Congress Regional Council (SERTUC). Which I admit is a bit of a mouthful but actually quite an interesting meeting.

On route to the Council at Stratford Station I was tapped on the shoulder by someone who said “Hello John” and who I knew but could not remember his name or how I knew him from Adam. He introduced himself and reminded me that I had defended him at an appeal against his dismissal several years ago. Unusually (most appeals against dismissal fail) it had been a successful appeal so he was very pleased with me.

He was on the way to work with the same organisation that had originally sacked him. The appeal was successful since grossly incompetent management had received advice on how to deal with him over an issue from an even more mind bogglingly incompetent HR if I remember rightly.

UNISON delegates had a pre-meeting beforehand to decide on how to vote on motions (there was an extraordinary 8 motions on the agenda – normally there is only 1 or 2). We were a little light on delegates since it was UNISON Black members conference this weekend.

Some highlights of the meeting - the SERTUC regional secretary, Megan Dobney, reported on being the sole TUC representative on the London Development Agency (LDA). The present LDA is completely dominated by political nominations made by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, except for poor Megan. Unlike when Ken Livingstone was Mayor, where he allowed representation broadly in line with the political balance in City Hall. Boris has made sure that the Labour Party now has no representation on the LDA whatsoever, which is just selfish Tory gerrymandering of the worse sort. It was noted that one of the first acts of the LDA was to abolish their equalities committee. They are apparently going to “mainstream” equality issues. Yeah.

In what I thought was a very progressive move, the SECTUC executive had invited an economist as a guest speaker to give us a briefing on the Global Economic/Market Outlook. Graham Turner of GFC Economics gave a thought provoking presentation on which I will post separately.

I was pleased about the way that the motions were dealt with by the Executive and the Council. Motions which were not properly thought out were remitted beforehand following informal discussions. I spoke on the motion regarding the London Olympic Legacy and mentioned the missing health centre and No. 10 e-petition.

The rather daft and “pious” motion 5 “Workers reaction to the collapse of the Capitalist Myth” which called for the seizure of asserts and the public hanging of bankers (OK well, not really but the sentiment was there) was knocked back by a whole series of speakers pointing out in the nicest possible way that this motion was completely bonkers. The movers eventually agreed to remit the motion or face it being voted down. Which I obviously think is really positive. The Executive will take it away and come back with a practical motion that is not going to make SERTUC look foolish and may even do some good.

Caroline Gooding from the Trade Union Disability Alliance gave a very good presentation. In recessions the disabled are often the "last in and first out". The CIPD (the HR trade body to you and me) did a survey of their members and 1/3 admitted that they would unlawfully discriminate against disabled members in job interviews. Better and more effective legal rights to protect disabled people are needed. The government scheme "Access to work" was described as "one of the best kept secrets of Government".

While I missed out on taking part in a West Ham Labour Party stall in Stratford that morning I did feel that the Regional Council meeting had been worthwhile and I’m looking forward to the next one.

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