Sunday, 18 July 2010

Unions Struggle with Devolution

After 11 years of devolved Government in Wales, the trade union movement is I'm afraid falling well short of understanding what it's all about.

What has not been grasped by most unions is that as a result of having a Welsh Government, their Welsh members need and deserve additional recourses in order to have an effective voice in the Senedd. Some unions (particularly the teaching unions) have responded in a more constructive manner and in doing so, are having a lot of success in influencing policy. However, let's look at the 3 big unions to see what difference they have made.


The GMB do not even recognise Wales as a 'region', yet alone a nation-they put Wales in with South West England and call in the 'South West Region'. Their approach to consultation with the Assembly is to talk to the Labour group and no-one else, whoever is in power. Many of their members work in the public sector where most areas are devolved. Consequently, many issues relating to SW England are irrelevant to Wales. Their commitment to the Welsh language is errrrrrrrr.


In fairness to Unite, they do have a 'Wales Region' and a more recognised Welsh structure. As the largest union in the UK, they should be the most influential in Cardiff Bay but again, they appear to believe that just consulting the Labour group is sufficient. Their commitment to the Welsh language is errrrrrrrr.


Unison has the biggest set-up as a 'Welsh region' and does actually lobby beyond the Labour Assembly group, although not with any consistency. They are again in a position of significant influence as the largest public sector union in Wales, but are still to significantly tap into this potential. Their commitment to the Welsh language is improving and they are the only non-teaching union to consistently support the Eisteddfod and produce bilingual literature. However, as with all UK unions, they do not see it as an equality issue and so bilingual services to members do not really exist.

These three unions make up the vast majority of the Welsh trade union membership and so their attitude to devolution matters. It is very worrying that at a time when we face a ConDem British Government determined to shrink the size of the state, that a devolved Government prepared to stand up for the public sector has to work with trade unions who have yet to grasp their true potential in a devolved Wales. After 11 years of opportunities to change, there are no excuses for the mail trade unions to be so sceptical about having a stronger Welsh voice.

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