Motion A41 at PCS Conference last week was timed out so I never got the opportunity to move the motion. It probably would have stirred quite a debate. The motion sought to limit the opportunity the National Executive Committee has in speaking on debates at the conference. I imagine they would have opposed this. Ironically, one of the reasons it was timed out was because the NEC were called in to speak on debates far too often. It’s worth noting at this point that there is no rule allowing the NEC to speak in debates in the way they do.
Hopefully their power and influence can be curtailed over the coming years and PCS can become a member-led union.
Conference, we are rightly proud that PCS leads the way in terms of democracy in the British trade union movement. Our rules allow for greater membership involvement than many other unions and we should be thankful that is the case. As a union we are right to recognise that democracy comes from the workplace up and not from the top down.
However we should always seek to improve our democratic process wherever we can. This motion presents us with an opportunity to update the way conference works by ensuring that the NEC only gets involved in our debates when we need them to.
This is our conference and we are either here to vote on motions because our members have mandated us to do so or we are here to listen and decide. For those of us who have been mandated on a particular motion it is irrelevant what the NEC speakers have to say because we cannot be swayed by that. For those of us who are here to listen and decide on a particular motion then we should be listening to each other as delegates.
This year we have a shortened Annual Delegate Conference and with potential changes to facility time we cannot be sure what conference will look like in the future. It is entirely possible that conference will be something that we have to do in our own time and that will necessarily make it shorter even than the truncated one we have this year. With that in mind we should consider this motion as a practical step to ensure that our business can be run effectively. Even when conference was longer the guillotine section of motions often contained important debates which we should have had more time to discuss.
By passing this motion we will ensure that many more motions can be discussed at future conferences. This does not prevent the NEC from issuing a paper declaring which motions they support and why and it does not prevent the NEC from forwarding or seconding motions. I think it’s important that this motion is not seen as an attack on the NEC itself but rather a way for delegates in the hall to take a bit more control over motions because ultimately it is us that have to decide. The motion also allows the President to have the authority to call the NEC into the debate to clarify matters of information if that would aid the debate.
We should also remember that conference is the last action of the outgoing NEC and as such it seems somewhat strange to have outgoing NEC members trying to influence the debate on motions that would in any case be put into action by the incoming NEC. This surely gives a great deal of power and influence to people who may have actually been voted out of office a matter of days ago.
Over the last few conferences in order to speed business up the President has often only called in the NEC speaker if the NEC was opposed to the motion. This obviously saves time but it also shows us why the NEC would prefer to stick with this arrangement. The truth of the matter is that they wish to influence our debate and also the decision that we reach, particularly when they don’t like a particularly proposal; I’ve got a feeling we’ll hear from them in a few minutes.
Let’s not forget that this motion highlights an anomaly in the rules. Nowhere in the rules does it state that the NEC should be called into debates on motions and yet it is a practice that we’ve fallen into. Whilst not being explicitly against the rules it is not written into the rules that the NEC should be speaking on motions which puts the President in a difficult position. Each time an NEC speaker is called into the debate this is contrary to the rules.
By passing this motion we will be making it clear that the NEC can be called into the debate on motions and under what circumstances that can happen. If we do not pass this motion then we run the risk of allowing this anomaly to continue.
Also if we don’t pass the motion it will mean that we continue to waste valuable time when we could be listening to each other. We have been mandated to speak by our members and we need to hear as many voices as we can at conference. This conference is for rank and file activists like ourselves to decide the policy of the union. In order for us to renew our democracy and save time during a truncated conference please support this motion.