UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Kirby new STUC President

UNISON Scottish Secretary Mike Kirby was elected as STUC President for 2011-12 yesterday in Ayr. Mike's recent appointment as Scottish Secretary followed many years as the lay Scottish Convener. The respect that follows Mike was evident at the STUC. From the warm thanks from outgoing President Joy Dunn for his 'inspirational support' to delegates in the Palestine debate paying tribute to the work he has done to support the Palestinian cause.

The gain for UNISON Scotland and STUC has been the loss for the Glasgow City Branch of which he was chair until recently. As well as his branch and Scottish role, Mike also chaired of the Regional Conveners' group in UNISON.

His organisational skills, his negotiating skills and his keen political awareness are needed more than ever as the STUC and Scottish unions gear up for some of the biggest fights we have ever faced to protect the values we hold dear.

On the home front, Mike has been a key part of the STUC's long-standing role in being instrumental in bringing together civic society, faith groups, community groups and pensioners alongside unions to build a common cause against the attacks on the welfare state.

He has not been afraid to take the hard decisions. For example to explore with the Scottish Government and CoSLA whether any protocol was possible to avoid compuslory redundancies. It faltered but there was a real commitment to our members in at least exploring what was possible.

Mike has had a key role in building those alliances across unions and Scottish society. In listening, debating and through taking on board and acknowledging what is important to others, he has been able to focus in on what unites us as opposed to what divides us.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in is international work. A voice for Palestine. A voice for Venezuela. Part of a process that saw the PGFTU and Histadrut brought together for full and frank discussions at the STUC in Perth in 2006. It also saw Mike promote a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions position against Israel at the 2009 STUC.

And it saw him this year grasp the difficult nettle of what the STUC's relationship with the Histadrut should be. A position that is controversial but one taken in full consultation with the PGFTU and taken for practical purposes to promote the Palestinian cause. Mike was clear that contact with Histadrut will only be there if it serves a purpose in taking forward the Palestinian cause and if it accords with the PGFTU's agenda.

His diplomacy skills were whipped into action when a dispute rumbled at the STUC General Council dinner. Calm was restored but many commented on the unusual sight of a Celtic supporter taking on the role of referee!

We wish Mike well in his Presidential year. He has the ability to bring leadership, build alliances, maintain our radical traditions as well as taking forward our treasured commitment to internationalism.

All serious and sincere stuff. But, being Scotland, we couldn't let the event go by without some ribbing as an antidote to the formality. So see below for an STUC delegate's warm wishes passed on to us for Mike's Presidency....

Kirby Assumes Command

Scottish political life was rocked this morning by the election of Mike "Che" Kirby to the commanding heights of the STUC as the new "presidente".

After several years guerrilla fighting on the General Council back benches. Kirby has now succeeded to the position of supreme power. An observer at the meeting reported that: "The feeling was in the air. There was only ever going to be one outcome. Kirby was taking command".

STUC officials masked their surprise, realising that resistance was futile and that the unison coup d'etat, masterly planned for at least a year was bound to succeed, though at least one staffer was overheard saying "we'll hae none of thon unison maoist nonsense here".

This is blatant nonsense as Kirby veers more toward the politics of Ho Chi Minn in his strategic approach. Kirby intends to use his new position to launch an assault, if not on the commanding heights of the economy, then at least on the on the forces of darkness and men in uniforms. We wish him success.