Sunday, 18 May 2014

Joint statement by PCS Democrats and UniteNOW on the proposed merger

Guest Post by Ian Albert, PCS NEC (personal capacity)

PCS Democrats and UniteNOW are lay member groupings within the PCS and UNITE respectively.

PCS Democrats are part of the Democracy Alliance on the PCS National Executive Committee (NEC). PCS Democrats work in partnership with Left Unity colleagues to deliver policies democratically agreed by Conference and subject to the overriding authority of membership ballots. The Democracy Alliance ticket won a clean sweep in the recent PCS NEC elections.

UniteNOW are a group of lay member activists dedicated to making UNITE a truly representative and member led union. UniteNOW has led the way on critical areas of policy and through its strong Executive Group and organised presence at conferences always seeks to hold Executive Officers to account.

Both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW are centre left groupings whose members overwhelmingly support the Labour Party and want to see the re-election of a Labour Government in 2015.

PCS Democrats and UniteNOW work separately within their respective unions to achieve the best results for members.

However, our groups have seen value in reaching out beyond PCS and UNITE structures. We have been in contact with each other since the process of informal talks regarding a possible PCS-UNITE merger began.

Both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW have agreed that there should be formal talks to explore the possibility of merger, but want to see certain conditions satisfied. Both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW want to ensure that members of both unions have sight of the same information and communications. This has not always been the case up to now.

Both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW groups recognise that formal talks will now take place and agree on the following points and urge lay activists to make sure that these points are aired and discussed within all Branches and constitutional committees, conferences and fora:
  • Transparency in this process is absolutely critical to building confidence amongst lay members that this transfer will take place for the right reasons and in their interests and not those of officials or political groupings;
  • Lay member participation must be at the centre of the talks and should be equally balanced on both sides as well as inclusive of the diversity of political opinions within both PCS and Unite; 
  • Financial stability of the new organisation is paramount and there must be full and open disclosure to the negotiating committees of all relevant financial details regarding income, pensions liabilities, assets and future projected spending and income;
  • Draft proposals for post-merger new public sector structure within UNITE already exist and there are some interesting aspects – particularly in relation to the future of sector conferences. However, it is essential that any new structure meets with the agreement of members that will be in the new structure and that it is primarily focused on their industrial needs and interests. It must not be put together simply to further the internal interests of any political factions;
  • In an organisation of this size it is not acceptable that the only full-time officer elected position is that of General Secretary. If a merger is agreed, both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW will work together to develop proposals for a future Rules Conference that aim to increase the number of elected senior officials as well as the accountability of existing national and regional officials. This is already policy within PCS.
Neither union has to merge and can remain independent. However, there are strong arguments in favour of the creation of a new powerful public sector group. Most members would continue to be represented in exactly the same way as now in their Branches.

But neither PCS Democrats nor UniteNOW have taken a formal position yet on whether to support the transfer of PCS into UNITE. This must await the outcome of the talks and the detailed proposals that emerge. However, as it currently stands only PCS members are guaranteed a vote in this process. PCS NEC are also proposing to hold a special conference. We think that’s right in principle. Therefore, both PCS Democrats and UniteNOW support the motion going to the UNITE Conference calling for a Special Recall Conference to give UNITE members a say as well on any final agreement.

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