UNISON National Delegate Conference 21-24 June Brighton – Part 1

Published June 21, 2016 at 21:56

This is the third update from your Delegates attending Conference this year in Brighton.

 

The first two days were dedicated to Local Government Conference – the highlight, as previously reported, was the censure of the National Joint Council over their conduct post-pay negotiations. Your Delegates are expecting a tough Wednesday when Branch finances are discussed but the first day of National Conference was expected to be a light introduction – the main act being an address from the General Secretary, Dave Prentis.

 

UNISON’s President, Wendy Nichols, opened Conference with her own speech. She has come to the end of her tenure as President. Her speech was from the heart, her journey through family life, working in Care Homes, her political upbringing, her (earned) rise through the ranks of both work and Trades Unions, right through to the losses in her life, that other people share too, but when it comes from the stand, knowing your hearing it for the first time along with 3000 other people, it is very moving.

 

Like Sunday, the start of Conference proper is taken up by introductions. Setting Wendy’s opening aside, the Standing Orders Committee got their turn. We’re a democratic Union – these things are essential and do protect us from making lay mistakes – we get it – but it does drag. Motions that are deemed “inappropriate” for Conference get another chance at being included in the order of business. In a nutshell – each motion that pitched for their second chance failed. Legal stuff apparently – and something that was against Rule K or something. We are local reps, forgive us for not knowing the rules off by heart. It is worth noting though that that particular motion was about UNISON supporting members taking Industrial Action. We don’t pretend to understand it fully but the Union wouldn’t want to put itself in legal jeopardy if supporting illegal Industrial Action as its against our (current) rules – we will return to this later, via a surprising source (at least to us)

 

As expected, after Conference started proper, there was nothing contentious to report. However, during the debate on…

 

Motion 47 – Attacks on Democracy – with amendment 47.1

 

… one alarming and particularly disgusting nugget came out. We didn’t catch the speakers name but we intend to find her so we can get more information from her. She told Conference that, on Election Day, across the country, one in five people with Learning Difficulties and on the Electoral Role were turned away from Polling Stations. If you are on the Electoral Role, it is your Right to vote. Your Right. These are unilateral decisions made by Polling Station Clerks – your UNISON officials will be raising this issue with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. There is no suggestion that this has occurred in our Borough but we will ensure that Electoral Rules are legally adhered to.

Conference Speaker – Dave Prentis, General Secretary

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This was always going to be the highlight of the day. Not because he is our General Secretary but because of what we expected him to speak about. He spoke for ages but Conference could hear it all again. In your Delegates’ opinion, he speaks for us, he really does. We couldn’t possibly report on it all, besides it will appear on UNISON’s website in due course. However, we want to give you some stuff from it…the feel…the tone…because, as we said, he speaks for us and we are happy that he does so. The following, we believe, is a fair reflection of what Prentis said

 

 

“It’s no exaggeration, this week will be a defining moment, how we choose the society we want to live in.”

 

A dark shadow has passed over the country after the murder of our Comrade and sister, Jo Cox. Jo was a wife, a mother, a Member of Parliament and a UNISON member. She had many friends throughout the Union and she is sorely missed already. She would have been 42 tomorrow.

 

UNISON’s position is to support remaining in Europe but as Prentis said, each member has their own view which comes from deep conviction. We would hope members vote to remain in Europe but we recognise that some won’t.

 

What worries UNISON is Farage. Farage is a disgrace. His finger jabbing politics stokes fear and ferments xenophobia. His recent use of THAT photograph with its very obvious Fascist and Nazi overtones that has rightly been rounded upon and just about sums him up. That’s why Prentis has reported Farage and the photo to the Police, asking them to instigate an investigation into Farage and his Racism.

 

“If you pour poison, set worker against worker, neighbour against neighbour, family against family…WE WILL TAKE YOU ON.”

 

UNISON have a history of stepping in to help those who can’t help themselves. It was UNISON who stood up to the Fascists in Tower Hamlets and Oldham. UNISON again who took on the Convoy to Calais (via Zeebrugge when British and French authorities thought they’d stopped them). First the BNP then the EDL now Farage, UNISON will take him on and UNISON will stop him. It seems if you rattle Prentis’s cage, it won’t be a budgie you wake up.

 

More tears and vigils this week after the Orlando massacre. UNISON stands in solidarity with all those affected in the atrocity. UNISON will continue to fight for Liberation, not just ending discrimination.

 

“An injury to one, is an injury to us all…. EVERY worker matters. It was true 100 years ago; it is true today. It isn’t easy. Standing with people who need help is the opposite of easy.”

 

The Trade Union Bill, now an Act of Parliament, had the guts ripped out of it before being passed into law. UNISON’s lobbying worked yet the Act is still a terrible law that seeks to take away the right to take Industrial Action. You cannot negotiate without the ability to strike.

 

In the last year, UNISON took more Industrial Action than any other Trades Union. Earlier in the week we reported that one LG Delegate said that we organise better when we strike. UNISON’s own statistics bear this out.

  • 166,000 new members
  • 10,000 new activists
  • 1,000 UNISON courses
  • Over 3,000 Delegates at Conference

 

More evidence that UNISON helps the weakest. UNISON made 17 local councils scrap zero hour contracts.

 

UNISON backed tomorrows speaker, Jeremy Corbyn in his bid to become Leader of the Labour Party (your Conference Delegates voted for him). UNISON should have no qualms about telling MP’s who cause division within the Party by working against him. He was elected because of his anti-austerity stance but UNISON cannot wait until 2020 for things to change, UNISON has to fight now – including against Labour run Councils. Derbyshire and Durham, both Labour controlled and both behaving deplorably, will be challenged. UNISON have just approved a Strike Ballot for the Durham Teaching Assistants whose treatment is nothing short of deplorable.

 

But UNISON will not forget that it is the Tories that need to be stopped. The divisions they are showing at the moment over the referendum will not last, they will be back all matey before too long. If you don’t understand poverty though, you need to be got rid of. Labour has to unite against them. However, considering how awful this lot are that are in Government, if Labour can’t get rid of them, they shouldn’t be in Politics in the first place. Come on…when the Out Campaign Tories state that they can fund the NHS by £350 million per week or whatever, even the ignorant can’t balance that against the knowledge that those very people have been rendering the flesh from the NHS for the last 6 years.

 

No long standing ovation…after “The Dark Shadow”, it’s hard to be celebratory.

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