"Unemployed members shall be entitled to attend branch meetings and to vote on issues not relating to pay and conditions of members in employment. They are not entitled to hold office in the union unless otherwise decided by the National Executive Council."
Similarly, on retired members, the UNISON rule book is clear:
Retired members shall be entitled to attend branch meetings and to vote on issues not relating to the pay and conditions of members in employment. They will be entitled to stand for office and vote only for positions in the Retired Members’ Organisation unless otherwise determined by the National Executive Council or as otherwise provided for in these Rules.
At the D&O last week we discussed some proposed amendments to the retired members issues. It was agreed that retired members' input - (eg as Pensions contacts or as activists who can help the union but not hold office) - was very welcome.
Some trade union activists, when they retire, cling on to power and won't move on. That's why UNISON's rules are there - to stop them doing this.
As a member on the NEC I am elected by my peers who also work in Higher Ed as support staff and are full members of the same union. If I was unemployed or retired - if I took a redundancy package for example - then I would no longer have the same interests as my constituents, as my material conditions no longer bare any relation to those workers I'd supposed to be representing.
Regardless of my gut instincts about what the members might want or feel about one issue or another, I would no longer be in a position to know, as my own position would be fundamentally different to them. So I'm glad that the D&O disagreed with some proposed rule amendments which could have eroded that principle.
I'm all for supporters helping out, and am always thankful that retired members should wish to lend a hand in some way, but they should accept our rules and bow out gracefully, as the vast majority of them do. For those that don't - it's embarrassing to have to ask, isn't it?