I attended the RCN EGM today in Birmingham to hear from Council and colleagues before the confidence vote was held.
I was one of the last to get a word in, here’s what I had to say:
I appreciate what has been said about keeping Council because they work hard in their spare time – I work hard in my spare time too; I chair a Forum, if I lose the confidence of my committee, I have to stand down, simple as that.
Also, maybe other unions SHOULD be having this discussion.
My esteemed colleague Andrea Spyropoulos has raised this issue that must be answered today:
On page 13 of the initial findings, and the second page of the subsequent report released yesterday, we read that “if the unions are not able to go out to their members with a positive recommendation to members, the Treasury will… consider it too risky to proceed and the framework will be off the table”
What we see here is that the RCN agreed to promote the pay offer – regardless of content – you agreed to work on behalf of the Government.
When that ultimatum was made by the Government, I expect those who are meant to be fighting my corner to fight my corner. When that ultimatum was made, why did you not say “no”? Why did you not say it was their job to spin the deal? Why did you not take this information to the public sphere and shame such coercion? Why on earth would you agree to do Jeremy’s dirty work?!
No member, rep, Council member, negotiator, Board member, Chief Executive, staff member or intern – nobody on this side of the organisation – should be working for the government. You’re here to look out for us, but this is not the action of a union working to the best interest of its members.
Instead, our union capitulated, and made a decision to only be positive about an unfair, incorrect, unjust sub-inflationary pay deal. That decision, not the actions of the petitioners or the debates on Facebook, is the true cause of the division we see here today.
Council and committee members, I want to say that I respect you, I respect your role and the sacrifice you make to fulfil this role, I know several of you personally and regardless of today’s outcome I’m happy to work with anyone. But this decision to place the word of the government above the word of your activists, campaigners and members is not one that I can condone – it was so obviously wrong I cannot quite understand how anyone could consider it right. But maybe I’m just another deluded male.
In the end, the resolution of no confidence was passed – by a large majority of the vote, but still only a small minority of the membership. It’s that age-old truth that decisions get made by those who turn up. That small turnout however still reflects the most engaged, passionate activists in the RCN, those who fund themselves to events, give so much of their time and effort to the College. If the confidence of the activists is gone, there is simply no way that things can continue as they are.
I take no pleasure or joy from the result of the vote, but it was the right result.
But far from drawing a line under the issue, I suspect this may just be the beginning of rebuilding our union. That work needs to involve significantly more than 4% of the membership.