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Disunion 01

Disunited Behind Closed Doors
Trade Unions
Disunited Behind Closed Doors

With the appreciated support of its partners in “Vote the Change”, SID won a mandate on the Luxembourg Staff Committee (LSC) in 2010. We have published very little about the workings of the LSC for three good reasons. First: the binding legal bases of the LSC completely exclude any co-decision rights with management. In practice managers also flout its consultation and information rights with impunity. Second: 17 of the 20 mandates have fallen to the Disunion Syndicale(DS), so most discussions are internal affairs of the majority. Third: the official minutes and other documents of the LSC are professionally drafted, though terribly boring.

Two recent events are worth bringing to the public’s attention because they reveal otherwise hidden truths about the DS, which often proclaims its unity and its professionalism in PR campaigns.

First, the DS decided to change the internal rules of the LSC. By the rules they needed 14 of their 17 mandates to do so. The present writer knew that something was amiss when one of the DS’ most senior officials approached him with the request for his, the 18th, vote in favour of the proposed changes. “What, has the DS decided to seek a consensus rather than a power play, as it has traditionally done?” he wondered.
Briefly summarized, the DS proposed to lower the quorums of votes needed for routine decisions and for fundamental ones. If the quorum was missed during one meeting a lower one would apply during the next. In the most extreme case, 7 votes might have been a majority of 20. The argument against this seems obvious. But, to be fair, it can also be argued that 13 representatives who fail to show up should not be allowed to paralyze those who came to the meeting. Why would a Disunion with 17 mandates of its own allow 7 representatives to form a majority? There must be an explanation. There was also the surprising idea to allow substitute members of the Staff Committee to be elected to its presidency. Why do such a thing when the Disunion has 17 representatives on the Local Staff Committee? One of those 17 substitutes must really be excellent. (The Commission's Legal Service ruled this out later. Does that ruling have something to do with the way the LSC President retired from the Commission in June and was rehired in July? Or did he just change his mind?)

Because the proposed changes were neither brilliant nor awful, the present writer attempted to insert an amendment of his own. (The limited time employment contract of his substitute had run out and he asked for the right to replace her with the next substitute on the electoral list.) The DS refused the amendment and your scribe refused to give his vote to the un-amended change. Surprise! The proposal received only 12 (not 17) votes and thus failed to carry because 14 are required to change the rules. By arithmetic, 5 of the DS representatives had refused to vote along with the majority of their Disunion.

Gleeful sarcasm aside, there is something to be said for people who vote for what they, and not their leaders, think is best. The internal LSC discussion showed some different points of view, but the underlying cause of the differences within the majority remained obscure, at least to this observer. The 1 member Vote the Change group of the LSC is practicing more transparency than the 17 DS people taken together.

At the next meeting of the LSC the DS managed to scrape up the necessary majority for its rule changes. If you know what was going on behind the scenes, send us an email.

There were more fun and games at the most recent meeting of the LSC, much more. The DS leadership announced that it had decided to strip one of its representatives of all the five mandates that they had delegated to him and give those posts to five other people. A lengthy and acrimonious debate ensued that revealed much, but not what the poor fellow had done to deserve such mistreatment.

It was pandemonium. One DS rep announced that she would vote with her leadership, but that she disagreed with their decision. Two others said that they would vote against their bosses despite “certain consequences”. Then one more stood up and declared that she could not remain in the chamber under the given circumstances.

Disregarding democratic principles and practices, the DS pushed through the decision to vote the one dismissal and the five new appointments in one solid block (like the Soviet block). No one has the right to subject staff representatives to this kind of extortion.

It seems that other staff reps were also unhappy with the proceedings. When the votes were counted the proposal had received 10, not 17. It was defeated because it would have needed a majority of 11.
It is alright for a majority to assert itself in voting. But when that majority falls apart during key votes, its credibility becomes questionable. The most serious problem is that no one is telling staff (voters) what is going on inside the DS, which is the staff representation until 2013. The worst possible revelations would be better than this secrecy. It is probable that there is nothing really sinister going on behind the closed doors. Democracy would work better if they opened them so that the many people they represent could make informed choices about whatever the issues are. How can voters vote if they don't know what is going on?

If the members of the Disunion use the same energy and ingenuity against the threatening Deform that they deploy against one another, then the future of Commission staff looks bright.

Created by: admin last modification: Thursday 26 of July, 2012 [15:07:53 UTC] by admin

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