SOC Recommends: A guide to DM

DM can be confusing for first-timers. Standing Orders Committee offers guidance and advice…

Five Standing Orders Committee (SOC) members are elected by each Delegate Meeting (DM). They are joined by two members appointed by the National Executive Council (NEC). SOC exists to ensure full and fair debate at DM within the union’s rules and DM’s standing orders. SOC advises on procedure and ensures DM debates each subject only once and that its decisions are capable of being implemented.

It does not rule on which motion shall be discussed, that is for conference to decide: but it does recommend motions it feels breach the rules or standing orders and should not be discussed. If you are unsure about any matter to do with DM business, please contact a member of SOC. See the back page of the final agenda for DM for contact numbers.

Making your contribution

DM is chaired by the union's President from the top table. To his or her left will be a member of SOC. Each delegate is allocated a place in the hall – please don't change seats.

At each side of the platform there will be a microphone. As you face the platform, the left-hand rostrum is for movers, seconders and supporters of motions. The right-hand rostrum is for speakers against motions, movers of amendments, seconders of amendments and supporters of amendments. Those opposing amendments should use the left-hand rostrum. Please use the proper side. If you don't, the President may end the debate early, thinking that there are only speakers for one side of the debate.

If you wish to speak in a debate, get in your queue to speak in good time. You may have written a speech in full but even if you go on the spur of the moment it is worth jotting down a note or two to ensure you make your points. Check that the people in front of you are waiting to speak on that motion/ amendment as they may have other business. When you get the green light and start speaking, please give your name and branch first. A correct introduction is "Smith, Anywhere branch. President, colleagues…" and don't speak too close to the microphone!

Time's Up!

Time limits for speakers are set out in the order paper. Usually movers and first opposition speakers have longer than others. A green light on the rostrum means you can speak. An amber light indicates you have almost exhausted your time and a red light means you should finish.

You can ask conference for an extension but be prepared to be disappointed – it's their decision. Movers of motions are entitled to wind up the debate if there have been points made in opposition. You should not use this to introduce new arguments, only to answer points made against. The mover can choose to wind up at the end or when the vote is to be taken on an amendment that would radically alter the motion.

Voting – by hand and the ballot box

Voting is normally by a show of delegate credentials. The President has an excellent view and is in the best position to decide how the vote went. If you believe he or she has got it wrong then you can call for scrutineers. A President will sometimes call for scrutineers if the vote is very close.

The hall doors will be shut and the vote will be taken again, this time with scrutineers at strategic points around the hall counting each delegate credential on display. Such counts delay business, so they should not be called for lightly. If you feel a debate is pointless, you can call for "next business" if your branch has not spoken. You can also ask for the "question to be put" if you feel the debate is repetitive by calling out "vote". It's often quicker to let the debate finish in the normal way.

Ballot papers for DM elected positions are issued at the appropriate time on production of your delegate credential. Listen to announcements from the platform about when to collect ballot papers and when to vote!

If you lose your credential see the Administration office to get it replaced. You will need proof of identity.

Urgent stuff

If a matter you think is important comes up after the close of motions, you can table a Late Notice Motion or even an Emergency Motion. Neither can be used to change the rules.

Late Notice Motions, which must have been agreed by a quorate meeting of your tabling body, must be with the General Secretary by noon of the day before DM. They must be things only DM can decide about, the annual accounts, or matters that have happened since the last date for receipt of motions.

Emergency Motions can be submitted at any time during DM but they must concern grave and urgent matters affecting the union and requiring immediate action which can only be authorised by DM and be proposed by at least five tabling bodies. SOC can advise.