The first day of the Revenue & Customs Group Conference was not a quiet one. It was a long and full day of business, whose highlights included delegates led by members of Your Voice giving the Group Executive Committee an absolute hiding.
Arriving in Brighton the previous day, there was some outcry over the fact that the Standing Orders Committee had retroactively ruled motions which called for ballots as ‘out of order’ if the issues that they addressed came under the remit of the Jobs & Staffing Campaign. However it soon became clear that this was as a result not of the SOC’s machinations, as the self-styled Masters of the Dark Arts had resolved to give branches the Conference that they wanted but were under pressure from the Group Executive Committee.
The GEC had written an emergency motion which they had wanted to overtake and bury the Performance Management debate. However, as the SOC had put this motion elsewhere on the agenda it then came out that if Conference voted to allow motions calling for a ballot back on the agenda, then certain members of the GEC were ready to call the national president and argue that this fell foul of the union’s rules. As this would have resulted in the loss of two hours of Conference to re-write the agenda, the pragmatic decision had to be taken to proceed with the debate as it was.
Conference was informed in the PMR debate of the GEC’s snide duplicity on this matter, and it should be remembered and planned for in the future. Luckily, as frustrating as this was, the SOC should be commended for their excellent work in ensuring that the agenda for the most part still remained in the control of the delegates rather than the executive.
This bore fruit almost right away. The first debate of the day was on Performance Management, where delegates pointed out the numerous failures on the GEC’s behalf and the need to essetially pass the same policies again that had been ignored a year earlier. There was near unanimity on this issue, as evidenced by the frosty reception for Assistant Group Secretary Clive Bryant. After failing to address the criticisms raised and talking around the points in a way that doesn’t raise confidence in how this issue will be handled in the coming year, he walked off with only the GEC applauding him and the majority of the Conference hall silent.
The next opportuntity to give the GEC a kicking came with the debates on, consecutively, Conference Paper A and the Personal Tax Operations Committee.
First, AGS John Davidson moved the Conference Paper which we have already previously dissected the shortcomings of. However, there was a broad base of support for the opposition Emergency Motion 7 put forward by Bootle Taxes Branch based upon the Your Voice model motion. Opposition to this motion was scant and easily dealt with, and the Conference Paper fell to loud cheers across the hall. This now means that the Group has a mandate for decisive demands on issues that have yet to be resolved, while not claiming to be in agreement with a senior management that is on the offensive and has shown over again it cannot be trusted.
Following this, Bootle Taxes moved a motion calling for the setting up of a formal reps committee in PT Ops to replace the current ad hoc one. This was met with some opposition, though the only substantial opposition to this came from the GEC. Their opposition only invited the points that the GEC has ignored and sidelined the ad hoc committee whenever it has felt like – Conference Paper A being put to Conference being a prime example – and a structure which had a firmer grounding and could not be ignored was needed.
This motion also passed overwhelmingly, and together these two debates marked reps in PT Ops re-asserting the interests of the rank-and-file so that their fate cannot be decided by backroom deals presented as fait accomplis.
Later in the day, the GEC was censured for the vast majority of its record in the past year. The Deputy Group Secretary spoke to defend the GEC, though the argument did not sway Conference. Delegates who had spent much of the day debating how to go forward after an undemocratic, inert shambles of a year were unsympathetic and overwhelmingly called on the GEC to adhere to instructions for less inaction and greater accountability in the coming year.
Beyond the big rows, an awful lot of important issues were debated. Those that passed without controversy, particularly in areas like equality and health and safety, will have at least as much of an impact as those which caused the big rows. Already, the incoming GEC have a hefty agenda to take forward – and so they should, as the issues facing the membership will not abate.
But it isn’t over yet. Tomorrow morning there is more business to get through, in particular the campaigns section of the agenda. What is vital now is that we not only agree a decisive campaign stratey to be getting on with, but that we make sure that we hold them to account in carrying that out. Ultimately, any deal which comes from management as a result of our action, has to be for the membership to agree or reject.
A further report will follow.
Download a PDF copy of our Conference bulletin, Red Revenue, here.