Tackling the 'democratic deficit'

One of the main tasks facing those of us who want to bring about change in our unions is to tackle the 'democratic deficit'. It is not enough to change the people at the top, we need to change the structures - in a way which will get the ordinary membership more involved, and which will allow the membership to exercise effective control over those in positions of authority. The role of national bodies must be changed from one of 'leadership'/order-giving to one of co-ordination and providing resources to the membership. Power must be devolved to branch and workplace level.

[A Personal article by WSM member Gregor Kerr originally written for 'Teachers United Bulletin' which is being distributed at the Teachers trade union conferences this week. Such articles are posted to the Ainriail list when first published]- 17th April 2001

As all three teacher unions have different rule books, it is obviously up to activists in each of the unions to prioritise particular changes they want to achieve. Might I suggest, however, that we all begin to peruse our rule books and look towards proposing specific rule changes aimed towards ensuring:

Obviously this is not a complete programme of reform, and passing all these changes won't in itself change our unions. But it would be a start, and I would urge members of all 3 teacher unions to try to put forward and argue for such changes at the earliest possible opportunity. It would kick off the fight for more democracy in our unions. After all they are supposed to be our organisations.

Gregor Kerr, Branch Committee member, Dublin City North, INTO (personal capacity)

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