Biennial meeting rejected

2nd June 1995 at 01:00
Plans to scrap annual conference and replace it with a biennial meeting were strongly resisted by the union's grass-roots .

A centre-piece of general secretary John Akker's proposals to modernise the union, it was withdrawn when it became clear that delegates to the annual conference in Torquay would not accept it.

But he has pledged to plough ahead with "reforms to a union structure that is very expensive to operate" and to introduce measures aimed at increasing the involvement of ordinary members. Moves to cut the executive from 65 to around 30 were also rejected.

The Left, while supporting the call for a smaller executive in the longer term, also wants more officials to be elected. Executive member Jefney Ashcroft said she would resist a biennial conference.

"Most people are there because they are in the thick of it. There is an opportunity to bring experiences to conference each year, to discuss and be involved in the running of a trade union."

Mr Akker spoke at the conference about "a system no longer relevant to a modern industrial and educational union in the second half of the 20th century."

Calling for more participation from ordinary members, he added: "When I go round the country, I see well-attended meetings but not ordinary members competing for jobs at a local level. It is a matter of regret that a lot of elected posts are not being contested."

It is a concern shared by the Left, said another executive member. "If executive members are there only because seats are uncontested, it minimises their accountability." Mr Akker listed wide-ranging reforms and draconian cuts in costs. A biennial conference would immediately save Pounds 100,000 a year apart from staff-support costs. Whole tiers of committee structures which lead to issues being debated three or four times over should be removed.

"There are practical issues to be faced," he said. The cost-cutting programme is under review.

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