A kind reader has sent me this post which appears on the Facebook page of the local Unison branch in South Lanarkshire Council.
Now if I were a Unison member in South Lanarkshire I'd be asking how this local fund has been managed and spent over the years, because £700,000 is a awful lot of the members' money.
From the information posted on Facebook Unison members in South Lanarkshire seem to be paying an extra 5% on top of their normal fees which get paid into this local fund, rather than handed over to the union at national level.
If so, what explanation do new members get about this higher membership rates operating in South Lanarkshire and are members told that they can pay a lower rate if they wish?
All seems rather odd if you ask me, as does the proposal to employ someone as a 'Caseworker' when union reps have a legal right to time off, with pay, to represent members involved in disciplinary or grievance procedures.
More to follow.
Unison South Lanarkshire
BRANCH DISPUTES FUND – PROPOSALS TO ALTER ITS USE
Members in South Lanarkshire will receive a ballot paper in the next few days. It will be distributed with the latest edition of our branch newsletter, BRANCHLINE. Please read it and return it in the envelope enclosed.
The ballot concerns our branch ‘disputes fund.’ This fund was established many years ago by a ballot of members who agreed by a huge majority to set up this fund. It is funded by a small levy paid by branch members. This is 5% of your dues. Therefore if you currently earn £17,000 your contribution to the levy is 47p every 4 weeks.
This local levy belongs to the branch and cannot be used to fund any activities of the union at Scottish or UK level. It can only be used locally. The stipulation when we set it up was that it would be used to assist members when we are in disputes and take strike action. Over the years therefore we have used it to assist members who were in hardship due to strike action and when members took selective action on behalf of all members we ensured that they were suffering no financial loss.
The branch Executive believe that having a local fund like this is essential to ensure that when we take industrial action we are able to support members.
However the fund has now reached a level where the Executive think it appropriate to review it. At the last annual report the local fund had over £700,000 pounds in it. This means it is possibly the largest such fund in the union. It continues to grow each year. This means that should we need to take strike action we are in a strong position to be able to support members who may suffer hardship.
However, it is the view of the Executive that the local levy could also be used to support members in other ways. Therefore we are asking members to agree that the fund can be used for other purposes than supporting members in disputes.
We are clear that it cannot be used to support Scottish or UK activities, or to provide funds for conferences, visits, travelling or any other activity by branch members that should be met from our general funds. The proposal is that it could be used for specific agreed projects that would directly benefit and support members in the branch.
One proposal being considered is the at the branch would employ a ‘Caseworker’ who would be available to provide representation to members in disciplinary and grievances where the branch stewards are unable to do so. This would be a direct benefit to members in addition to the existing representation service that is available via stewards and branch officers.
We recognise that we need to retain a healthy fund to support members in disputes and so it is proposed that a figure be agreed that the fund should never fall below a certain level. This would be reviewed and agreed annually as part of the annual report and budgeting that members need to agree to.
Please make sure you read the further explanation that is in the Branchline and please cast your vote in the ballot.
To further encourage you to return the ballot paper we are holding a raffle with some pretty good prizes. So return your ballot paper and your raffle slip!