Reality bites at union democracy

18th June 2004 at 01:00
or an hour or two, the annual conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland bore an uncanny resemblance to other recent union conferences.

Delegates essentially agree on the fundamental issues such as departmental restructuring in secondaries, violence against staff and social inclusion and deliver their set speeches without counter argument. But the hard left cannot be silenced for ever, even if it has few serious complaints about the post-McCrone deal on pay and conditions. It is always liable to snap at the leadership and has done so on class sizes.

The left retains a considerable influence at conference but as Ronnie Smith, general secretary, pointed out in his formal address, union democracy is not what it once was. A number of delegates' places remained unfilled, only 18 of the 34 associations submitted motions and 36 of the original 103 motions came from just two associations. "I do not think this is a sign of decay - but it may well be a sign of fundamental change in the nature of our membership," Mr Smith ventured.

Many would contend that this is reality.

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