Published June 23, 2016 at 7:10
Day 2 of National Delegate Conference and the 4th blog from your Delegates.
Bittersweet day for your Branch.
Yesterday’s blog featured the address from our General Secretary, Dave Prentis. Today, the guest speaker was Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party – and a UNISON member. This author was glad to support and campaign for Jeremy Corbyn in the Leadership election. He is a Trades Unionist and believes strongly, and proves it by action, that Society should protect the weakest in it.
His opening remarks mirrored Prentis’s yesterday. Along with his own tribute to the murdered MP Jo Cox, was an announcement that Bernard Keenan, the former miner who intervened in the attack on Jo and was stabbed himself, is recovering well from his injuries.
Corbyn has known Prentis for over 15 years and he said it was a pleasure to work with the Trades Unions on establishing Labour Party Policy. Your Branch Officials, Stewards and Representatives work day to day with members, fighting fights, building trust…so members will listen when wider issues are at stake…like the EU Referendum. Corbyn stands firm in the remain camp – UNISON’s policy is to Remain – but its more than Remain. Its Remain, Reform and Change. A couple of the main points were:
- The NHS is a free at the point of delivery service that is a basic human right. The Health and Social Care Act opens it up to private delivery, half of the services will be lost to Business. Mental Health budgets have been slashed – society cannot ignore those that suffer Mental Ill-Health (and one in four will suffer in their lifetime). Social Care for the elderly has been deliberately underfunded (we have members that can attest to that first hand) and been placed in the hands of Business. These attacks on Health Care have to be opposed strongly. The (ha ha) “leader” of the Leave Campaign, Boris Johnson recently said: “If people pay for the NHS, then they’ll value it more.” If the country votes to leave the EU, the NHS is in real jeopardy. His party have been systematically stripping it bare for the last 6 years…without the EU, the rest will be whittled down to “Medical Friends”. We will be led unchecked by people that put Companies ahead of Democratic Government
- The Environment is at risk. We already recycle…we could do more…we have renewable energy…again we could do more…but in our ever more consuming society, we still leave waste. We still pollute. In the 80s, vast swathes of Scandinavian Pine Forests were stripped by acid rain that came from north west and central Europe. If pollutants hit the sea in Brighton, it’s just as likely to effect the coast of France. The point is – pollution knows no borders. Controls on pollution need consensus.
He could have gone on to say, because he has said it before, that remaining in the EU would help protect the health and safety of the workforce. The Tories have stated the desire to get rid of the red-tape of Health and Safety as it is a hindrance to Business. Think on that members…some of us are put in dangerous workplace situations as part of our day to day working life. We only do so because there are safeguards in place to protect us. They have to be, that’s the law. By leaving Europe, the Tories will be allowed to rip the heart out of the very stuff that protects us and keeps us safe.
These addresses are not there to tell all about all Party Policy but he spoke to us the kind of things that are immediately important to us.
The National Living/Minimum Wage…good points about its introduction and the premise it ought to set but it should be one rate for all. Do 25 year olds not eat the same (or more) than the rest? Do they not need clothes, a bed, a roof? There are no discounts for the young. It’s about Equality of Status. Corbyn took his Shadow Cabinet to Dagenham on International Women’s Day where the ladies gave them a lecture on equal status and pay. That’s when he warmed our cockles and paid tribute to Barbara Castle – oh yes, our old MP, ours mind, ours…we are rightly proud.
The awful Trade Union Act will be repealed. Obviously.
The decision to end Student Nurse Bursaries will be overturned. The headline saving may well be impressive – (x) amount of cash saved – but in 5, 10 years’ time, no nurses coming through.
To win the General Election, whenever it comes – whatever political machinations occur post-referendum vote, the Labour Movement needs to be mobilised, on an agenda of Equality, for young, old, whatever alike.
Yesterday, Prentis said “An injury to one is an injury to us all.” Corbyn put it positively…” A victory for one is a victory for us all.” When we work together, we achieve victories together.
Motion 2 – Organising for growth in the Community and Voluntary Sector
A motion similar was axed a couple or so years ago – we were disappointed that it wasn’t discussed – the Branch has a growing membership in the Community and Voluntary Sector. The NEC provided for us though…with our own Conference. We wanted it discussed in front of Conference. The Community and Voluntary Sector now has 68,000 members across the Country so it’s about time they were treated as Big Boys at the table. Often though, the members will work for an organisation that does not recognise Trades Unions. A growing number of 3rd sector organisations are taking responsibility for Statutory Services, organisations that employ part time staff, on low pay…we touched on this on day 1 with barriers to activism. It’s hard to organise in the 3rd sector without the resources. Reps and Stewards often come under the radar whenever there are issues because they are not provided for with Facility Time Agreements.
The motion called for
- Make recruiting in, organising with, and delivering for workers in the Community and Voluntary sector a key priority for UNISON
- Examine the experience of UNISON Scotland’s Organising for Growth Strategy with the aim of developing a UK wide approach to recruiting, organising and bargaining in the Community and Voluntary sector based on the successes of the Organising for Growth model applicable across UNISON.
This was never going to fail. It was good to hear some positive stuff come out instead of being dominated by horror stories.
Motion 121 – Branch Finances
Some branches are big, some are small. Money paid in subs goes centrally and is redistributed to Branches on the basis of the total membership. As a result, some Branches are better off and have built reserves. Blackburn with Darwen are a Branch with reserves but ours were not built up by being frugal – far from it, defending the rights, terms and conditions of over 2,000 members comes at a cost. No, our reserves were built up through a voluntary levy of members in order to fund local Industrial Action.
The motion called for money to be held centrally and given out according to “projected need”. Apart from the fact that we had raised that money ourselves to fight Industrial Action for local members, we were opposed to the motion in so many other ways.
We are in a difficult position in Blackburn with Darwen. We are about to face a further 500 redundancies; more members will be transferring to the 3rd sector. When redundancies are announced against matrices – the cases will build up. Will we get help from Region or National? Experience tells us that if members approach Region or National, they refer them back to us, telling us to deal with it. This all has a cost. “Projected Costs” is an ace one. How do you know what is going to hit the fan in December when you are having to produce detailed projections in April? In emergencies, we know that our Treasurer can release funds according to need. This is control of ourselves. How quickly do you get travelling expenses back through work? It will be the same if funds are controlled centrally. Oh, we’ll get our dues according to membership but we have a high expectation, very high, that costs to the Branch will cripple us if our “dues” is all we have.
The motion was debated, with local Branches within Regions at odds. The vote was called. After a card vote, the motion was carried by a majority of 41,000
Our hearts sank. We feel so let down. Blackburn with Darwen LG Branch will end up having 90% of our reserves taken from us.