Sunday, 27 August 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council 4th July 2017

The President opened the meeting by referring to the Certification Officer (CO) decision regarding the complaints into the conduct of the 2015 General Secretary election. There was an appeal to the EAT (Employment Appeals Tribunal) so this wouldn’t be discussed at this meeting as there were legal proceedings underway. A full report on this would go to a future NEC as soon as possible.

The senior Vice President read out a statement re: access issues to the 9th floor of the UNISON Centre where NEC meetings are held. (I was one of a number of NEC members sitting in solidarity with an NEC member who has access issues (a hidden disability) on the 1st floor of the building (we participate via a video link, which limits visibility).
It was stated that if we moved the NEC to the ground floor (where all the NEC could be accommodated together) there would be ‘an issue of security and access for other meetings’.

An NEC member tried to raise the issue of a motion that had been submitted to the Presidential team beforehand regarding accessibility of NEC meetings – calling for the provision of an alternative single room on the Ground floor as a reasonable adjustment (where the NEC has met in the past).
An NEC member called for business to be moved on. A vote was taken. I voted against moving business on. Those of us on the 1st floor could not see the numbers voting one way or the other on the 9th floor. An NEC member asked that as a reasonable adjustment that the numbers voting one way or the other be called out. It was declared the motion to move next business was ‘clearly carried’. I also asked that as a reasonable adjustment someone should have been counting votes on the 9th floor and someone should have been counting votes on the 1st floor.

We then discussed NEC subcommittee allocations. The President said that this had been a difficult task and first preferences expressed by NEC members had tried to be accommodated.
However, there had been an increase in the size of some of the strategic committees with some doubling up. Anyone who had an issue with their committee was advised to make representation to the Presidential team and this would be reviewed before the October meeting. An NEC member pointed out that a white male NEC member had got 4 committees. Analysis of committee allocations shows that NEC members who stood under the banner of the ‘Stronger UNISON’ slate in the recent NEC elections received an average of 3.6 committee allocations per member while the UNISONAction broad left that I stood got only 1.9 allocations. There are 29 UNISONAction supporting NEC members, 31 Stronger UNISON and 7 unaligned NEC members.

We then split into groups for the appropriate NEC sub-committees. I got my first preference of D&O (Development and Organisation) sub-committee which I have been on the last few years. The Stronger UNISON slate put 2 candidates for Chair and Vice Chair of D&O as did UNISONAction. The vote for each position was 13-9 for the Stronger UNISON candidate. Chris Tansley was elected Chair with Margaret McKee as Vice Chair.
I had put my name forward for General Political Fund (GPF) committee. Any GPF levy payer on the NEC can vote for who is on the GPF Committee. There were 12 members of the Committee to elect – 23 were in the room, 18 had put their names forward. I was pleasantly surprised to get elected to this committee. 2 of the 12 elected were UNISONAction supporters.

We then reconvened as the full NEC. Dave Prentis, in his General Secretaries report referred to the tragedies of recent weeks including the terror attacks and the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell fire. With the recommendation and approval of the Kensington and Chelsea Local Government branch a discussion would take place with the Presidential team about where a donation would go to. The NEC agreed this unanimously. Support would go to the local branch. Sonya Howard, Branch Secretary of the Kensington and Chelsea branch (and also an NEC member) addressed the NEC and made a moving statement.
Dave Prentis spoke of the need by March 2018 to get agreements from employers on ‘check off’ or DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source). This was a big issue affecting all Regions and branches. Dave referred to the public sector pay cap and that pay was 20% down for public service workers. Also referred to was the brilliant Labour Party manifesto which called for the lifting of the public sector pay cap. A major problem Dave Prentis stated was that the pay cap is seen as an issue in terms of uniformed public service workers but also that the best time to smash the pay policy is with a split government. This was our number one objective over the remainder of the year. There needed to be a push across the whole union. We would put pressure on marginal constituencies where there were Tory MPs. There would be several thousand UNISON members in each of the constituencies. There would be a meeting of the UNISON Service Group Liaison Committee – Chair and Vice Chairs of Service Groups – Convenors from the Regions would also be invited. We had to get over 50% turnout in Industrial Action ballots to reach the threshold under the Trade Union Act. Industrial Action was a show of force and power. Work should start in the summer and go on to the autumn. We also agreed to send a message of support to Kirklees UNISON members who were taking Industrial Action 5th/6th July 2017 (Family support protection workers). Dave Prentis took questions and comments. I raised the anti-austerity demo in London that had taken place on 1st July 2017. The demo was diverse and angry and people had brought their own placards (a sign new people were getting involved), people were chanting Jeremy Corbyn’s name and there was a buoyancy to the protest that indicated that we were a movement on the rise again. We had the demo at Tory party conference in Manchester in the Autumn to be mindful about – how were we going to build for this over the summer?

Paul Holmes, NEC member for Local Government asked that the Labour Party manifesto be circulated to branches and also stated that turnouts for balloting would be higher if we had workplace balloting. Dave Prentis said to return to workplace balloting is an aim of ours.
Dave Prentis stated that the demo in Manchester we would ask the TUC to convene. It wouldn’t just be a UNISON demo. We would take this to the TUC and when a decision was taken it would be a big issue for all branches.

Steve North NEC member from the North West said we needed to put the 20 Tory MPs in a difficult position in the marginals we should mobilise members to get in involved in those constituencies. The Labour party tactic was to park the tanks on the Tory lawns.
Elections for the National Labour link committee had taken place earlier and it was announced that those NEC members elected to it were:

Irene Stacey, Helen Kilpatrick, Jean Butcher, Mary Locke, Davena Rankin, Sonya Howard, Jenny Forbes, Eleanor Smith, Angela Roberts, Gordon McKay, Chris Hanrahan, John Gray.    

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Election of UNISON Presidential team 23/06/17

The first meeting of the newly elected UNISON NEC for 2017-2019 took place last Friday at the close of national delegate conference in Brighton. It came against the backdrop of a great General election result where the Tories lost their majority and Labour gained seats on the back of a great anti-austerity manifesto.

The first meeting of the new NEC voted for the new Presidential team.
The broad left UNISONAction slate made a strong showing in the recent UNISON NEC elections and indicated members want a change in our union.
Following the passing away of President Eric Roberts last year and given the fact that Carol Sewell (Vice President) lost her seat in the recent NEC elections there were 2 vacancies. Margaret McKee, Vice President moved up unopposed to President.
The balance on the new NEC is 31 ‘Stronger Unison’ who stood under this banner and are supporters of the Dave Prentis leadership, 29 UNISONAction (the broad left) who want a change of direction in the union and 7 ‘independents’ (not standing on either slate). On this occasion the independents present voted with Stronger Unison.
So the outcome was the 2 new Vice Presidents are Gordon McKay and Josie Bird who both got 36 votes and 28 votes each for Paul Gilroy and Diana Leach. I voted for Paul and Diana. Congratulations to those elected.
UNISONAction will continue to argue in a fraternal way for more openness, accountability and democracy on the NEC.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council meeting 8th February 2017

Thanks were extended to Suzy Franklin, NEC member who had retired at the end of 2016.

Thanks were also extended for all his hard work for the union to Roger Bannister, long standing NEC member from the North West who was retiring. Roger received a round of applause from the meeting.
Best Wishes were extended to NEC members who were not well – Lucia McKeever and Sarah Crowe.
The first item was National Delegate Conference (NDC) business. NDC is to be held in Brighton in June. There were 12 NEC motions to be submitted to NDC.
1.       Increasing participation/activism through learning. Calling on the NEC to review the internal program for developing new activists.
2.       Developing an organising branch – looking at the different ways of organising in the hostile environment in which UNISON branches are operating.
3.       Workers’ rights in Turkey - This motion concerns the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey particularly since the failed coup last year. Public sector workers had been arbitrarily dismissed in the clampdown. There were already repressive laws in place for Trade Unions. The motion criticises the British Government for failing to respond to the erosion of human rights and democracy in Turkey and urges the Government in negotiations with Turkey to uphold workers rights.
4.       Protecting workers in supply chains through ethical public procurement – the motion refers to the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in April 2013 when an unsafe building collapsed killing 1130 garment workers many of whom were young women. The situation has not improved for workers in the Asia Pacific Region that supplies products to the UK High Street and calls on international treaties and codes to be respected, for ethical procurement policies to be expanded to include all public service providers and supports the extension of Section 54 of the Modern Slavery act to include public bodies.
5.       The integration of health and social care – responding to the challenges – this was concerned with the issue of resourcing and funding not adequately being dealt with in integration of services - there was some debate on this with a number of NEC members proposing an amendment to strengthen the motion along the lines that STP’s (Sustainability and Transformation plans) were not fit for purpose and had a lack of transparency and shouldn’t we be saying we oppose STP’s? The national officer for Health stated that STP’s were a process, they were not all the same and that to oppose a process would be difficult. We should oppose if outcomes are detrimental to members and service users. Another NEC member said this wasn’t just a matter for the Health service group - it is a citizenship issue. An NEC member stated it would be naïve to believe anything other than that the integration of services would be at the expense of staff and the pay and conditions of members. The driving force was the Government agenda of cuts. The top table refused to put the amendment to the vote. NEC members from the North West objected that the usual process would be to put an amendment to the vote to be accepted or rejected before a vote on the motion.
6.       International Trade, EU exit and Trump – this was concerned with the threat of public services being opened to privatisation after Brexit including the NHS from U.S. private healthcare companies. We had campaigned against trade deals such as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership).
7.       Pay – tackling in-work poverty – since the 2008 pay cap a situation of falling wages had occurred. In work poverty was now a fact of our society. There were a number of action points for the NEC including campaigning for the real Living wage and a call on the TUC to organise a public sector pay lobby of parliament in summer 2017.
8.       Fighting insecure work – 1 in 10 workers now work in insecure employment - the motion has campaign points for the NEC to campaign for greater workers’ rights. An NEC member said this was a worthy motion but we could also say something about we organise these workers. Amendments from branches along these lines (how we should organise) would be welcomed.
9.       Exiting the EU - A Fair Deal for workers and public services A lengthy motion. It refers to the four key priority areas set out in the UNISON Exiting the EU campaign and how we take these forward:
A. Employment, health and safety standards and trade union rights
B. Public services and professional standards
C. Trade deals/standards, environmental regulations and public procurement
D. Freedom of movement and the right to remain. Fighting racism, discrimination and promoting equalities and human rights;
An NEC member said that whilst they agreed with the action points in the motion we should not join the camp of those who had respected the result and we should not stop saying we deplored the exit from the EU.
A further NEC member said that after the EU debate and vote, whether we voted to leave or remain we needed to stand together and fight for workers rights. The tone and content of the motion was positive. Another NEC member said it would not serve our members purpose to hark back to a decision that has already been taken (i.e. exiting the EU), we now needed to develop a policy to protect and if necessary extend workers’ rights through the negotiations. The motion should be supported as it stood. The motion was supported unamended.

10.   Challenging racism and xenophobia - Visible expressed racism had increased in the last year, there were concerns exit from the EU will be an excuse for further attacks on migrant workers. The motion welcomes the work done by branches to challenge racism in the workplace but this work needs to be strengthened. One of the action points states:
‘Work with a wide coalition of anti-racist groups at national and local level to support local community organising against racism and xenophobia, including branches affiliating and working with HOPE not hate, Show Racism the Red Card, Stand up to Racism and Unite Against Fascism;’ There was no specific mention of Trump but we were committed to work with other organisations to make sure the Trump state visit does not take place. An NEC member referred to the massive protests against Trump in the wake of the Muslim travel ban in the US. There needed to be more Trade Union banners there and we could relate to the young people moving into activity. There was an ‘unwelcome committee’ for Trump. An NEC member from the North West referred to the emergency resolution opposing Trump and Islamophobia which was carried at the recent NW Regional Council. 

11.   Challenging the ‘new’ Conservative economic agenda
This motion notes the continuing austerity agenda under May and Hammond, the funding crisis in the NHS, social care and Local Government. Post EU exit the Government has failed to develop a long term economic plan outside of the EU. We were in favour of a very different economy, an end to austerity and fair funding of public services. A system of public investment in the economy. 

12.   Getting the public on our side – public service campaigning
There was a further raft of cuts affecting schools, social care, NHS funding and Local government and police. We have a duty to campaign to win over the public for an alternative that recognises the value of properly funded public services. Following a motion at National Delegate Conference 2016 the public service champions campaign had been launched. This motion calls on the NEC to continue to pursue the campaign. 

An NEC member who said they had been a sceptic of the campaign proposed an amendment which was agreed – to add a bullet point saying the effectiveness of the campaign would be evaluated.

NEC Conference plan – National Delegate Conference would take place in Brighton in June. Bids for fringe meetings would be considered at the April meeting of the NEC. There was a suggestion of Angela Rayner MP and a Turkish union leader as guest speakers.

It had been agreed a banner dedicated to a veteran activist from Kirklees branch who had sadly passed away – Dave Ellis, would be displayed in the UNIZONE. Suggestions for a tribute to Eric Roberts, the late UNISON President would also be considered.

An NEC member from the North West suggested a speaker on opposing racism such as Gary Younge of the Guardian or Diane Abbott MP.
General Secretary’s report – The Trade Union Act – from 1st March 2017 the regulations regarding Industrial action ballots come in. The 50% turnout applies to all members. Some groups of members are caught by 40% of all members voting yes as well i.e. A and E and Ambulance workers. The Regulations regarding the collection of money for the union ie. DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions) or ‘Check off’ were not through yet. We had to get tens of thousands of employers to agree to continue check off.

Political fund changes – There was a working group of Finance, Labour link and General Political fund (GPF) to look at options.

Durham and Derby Teaching assistants’ disputes – Action was continuing. In Durham there was a massive reduction but only 2 years pay protection. There was a move from 52 week working to term time working. 90% of the members were low paid women. Derby - in addition to the move to term time working, allowances had been reduced and hours of work. The union wanted the £4.5 million back that had been taken from members. Negotiations were ongoing and the disputes were in need of donations.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary had signed the letter that had been published in the Guardian opposing the state visit of Donald Trump to the UK. We were working with Stop Trump UK and others. I asked that the NEC report from this meeting highlighted this and our opposition to Trump as the stakes were high if Theresa May could get away with a state visit of Trump to the UK with the Muslim ban in place, further attacks could well take place. May’s appeasement of the right wing bigot needed to be ended. An NEC member from the North West stated it was welcome we were supporting the NHS demo (subject to the Health executive agreeing the following day which they did do) on 4th March 2017 in London but there was some complaint why has this taken until 3 weeks before. Another NEC member said whilst we should be courteous to the Health SGE, the NHS was not within the property of the Health Service Group Executive (SGE), the defence of the NHS was a citizenship issue affecting the wider union.
We reaffirmed our support for the national Anti-racism day demonstration on 18th March 2017 – London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and cities across the world.

There was a memorial held after the NEC at TUC Congress house for the late President of the union, Eric Roberts.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council meeting 7th December 2016

There was a sombre start to the meeting as Dave Prentis, General Secretary gave a eulogy for Eric Roberts, UNISON President who had sadly passed following a short battle with cancer. Dave said Eric ‘looked after people’ and ‘was there for them’. Eric was born in Liverpool and had once repaired the Beatles drumkit and had an early job making pots and pans before he came to London where he was an activist for many years in the London Ambulance service. The NEC held a minutes silence for Eric. There was a planned memorial for him in February 2017. Eric had asked that any donations go to the MIND Blue light charity. The NEC agreed not to appoint a President at this stage out of respect – the 2 Vice Presidents would continue till conference 2017. Dave Prentis suggested there be some kind of award in his name e.g. for best activist or best organiser.

There was a further minute’s silence for Phil Green who had been a UNISON Regional organiser and Roger York who had been an employee of NALGO.

Forward planning – financial planning and budgets for 2017 – The Chair of Finance NEC subcommittee stated that it was important we maintained balanced budgets, we maintained our reserves and did not run deficit budgets. The original 2016 budget was on the basis of £167m income this had been revised down for 2016 to £165.2m and 2017 income was now budgeted at £164.1m. Future income was becoming more difficult to predict. An NEC member asked if we could reduce our level of reserves to maintain our service to members. The Chair of Finance stated that the vast majority of reserves are property not cash. There is £46m of cash to support branches.

An NEC member raised a question about recruitment in the union and delays in filling vacancies in essential posts. What criteria is there to assess the impact? Also could we make Fighting fund organisers posts permanent as in their Region there was an issue of recruiting and retaining quality Fighting fund organisers otherwise we may lose these workers.

Dave Prentis stated that the policy of not filling posts for 6 months did not apply to posts at the sharp end. In the last 7 years income had gone down. An Assistant General Secretary post had been vacant for 6 months as had the Head of the Executive Office. Every job that was delayed in terms of being filled at the Head Office was to maintain staffing levels in the Regions.

Roger Bannister, North West NEC member stated that to spend reserves would give the wrong impression. The issue was not divorced from the performance of the union in terms of holding onto jobs under attack in Local Government and the NHS – this is the best security. The lack of income was because of losing members – we need to be seen to be fighting for members.

Draft objectives 2017 feedback – an NEC member felt there should be more emphasis on opposing austerity as well as the Trade Union Act and Brexit.

Service Group update – there was some discussion of STP’s (Sustainability and Transformation plans) an NEC member said a third of these involved emergency department closures or downgrades. We needed to kick STP’s into the long grass. The national officer for Health suggested that the advice was to not reject STP’s, they are a process, and i.e. we should work with Regions and branches on individual STP’s. The Labour Party front bench had made 5 tests for STP’s to meet. We should engage with scrutiny boards.

An NEC member from the North West referred to the STP’s and how they affect the NHS and social care in Local Authorities. It was about cuts. The North West Regional committee had condemned the secrecy and lack of democratic accountability involved. Shouldn’t we be upping our game on this and condemning the STP process?

Another NEC member said ‘we do not campaign against the existence of councils because councils are having to make cuts’. A further NEC member said ‘consultation on STP’s has been woeful, we should build opposition to them, and they are Tory led initiatives against a background of general cuts’.

Dave Prentis then gave his General Secretary’s report
Trade Union Act – the Government had published ballot thresholds from 1st March 2017. These were 50% turnout for normal industrial action with 40% of all members voting yes for essential services – this would affect health. Advice from the legal department would go out to the union. The attack on the union’s political funds was ongoing unabashed. There would be a transition period to a new political fund system for the union. Proposed changes would need to go to the national conference. Rule amendments have to be in at the same time as motions in time for February 2018. i.e. the rule amendments needed to go to National Delegate conference in 2017. There was a working group of General Political fund and Labour link.

Autumn statement – there had been nothing in it for public services. There was the crisis in social care. Dave Prentis had met David Davies, Secretary of state for leaving the EU (European Union) privately with a national officer. David Davies had been pressed on employment rights. Some of those who had called for Brexit had called for less employment rights. Davies had said he did not wish to attack existing workers rights. Although Dave Prentis had been told this privately he did not see why people should not be told publicly.

TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)– This had now gone on ice.

Employment tribunals - £1,200 to pay was a negation of the right to access justice. We had said this was discriminatory. UNISON’s case was in the Supreme Court but had been bumped off because of the clause 50 debate on the EU.

Disputes – we should have a running list of these including which authority was taking action, the ballot result and outcome etc.

Teaching assistant’s disputes – Durham – rallies had taken place with halls overflowing. 2,000 members were involved and 500 had joined since the dispute. There was 2 years pay protection but a 23% pay cut. In addition to the industrial action several of the Local Constituency Labour Parties (CLP’s) had signed motions unanimously calling on the local council to stand down from what they were doing. The strikers were a solid group and enthusiastic. We would ensure termination letters giving new contracts were withdrawn. Derby – members had voted by 90% to reject the offer which was not a good one. Industrial action was planned for 14th/15th December, 19th/20th December and 4/5th January 2017. Every house in the ward of the local council leader had been knocked on and 700 families had signed up to say they wanted the council to concede. There was a national call for money to be sent by branches to support the dispute.

Roger Bannister, North West NEC member said his branch had put an article in the branch newsletter about the dispute which was important to send a message around the place if councils try and dismiss and reengage.

NHS Demo 4th March 2017 in London. I raised this and stated the North West Regional Committee had backed the demonstration the previous day. 30 NHS campaigning bodies as ‘Health Campaigns Together’ (HCT) had come together with sister Trade Union’s. This was an excellent way of undermining the Tories and UKIP in advance of the local elections and any potential General election but not in a right wing anti-immigration stance. The NHS was the crown jewels of the labour movement and a fantastic multicultural institution. Slogans were ‘no to pay restraint, for a fully funded NHS, no to privatisation and cuts’. I asked could we get materials to branches before the New Year and support the demo as an NEC? Dave Prentis said ’I believe we will support the demo’. There was an issue of the Health Service Group Executive (SGE) and it’s timetable of meetings in February 2017 being unfortunately out of sync and a little late in terms of building support for the demo. The request to support the demo from HCT would be considered at the next Health SGE. In any event the North West and South East Regions of UNISON were already supporting the demo. Another NEC member said this was directly relevant to all UNISON members as a citizenship issue.

An NEC member then referred to the difficulties of the Tories – they could not sort out HS2 or Heathrow and couldn’t hold one of their safest seats in Richmond. They were unconfident in calling a General election. They would only call one if they thought they were going to win. Brexit and even Trump had put everything up in the air. The EU would tear the Tories apart. Cameron had called the EU referendum to put the issue to bed, but it hadn’t been.

Another NEC member from the North West said Britain was polarised as across Europe and mainstream politicians could not expect to get elected as before. Living standards had gone down and people had lost faith in establishment politics. We should support what Diane Abbott had said – it was not migrant workers who were to blame. The problem was predatory employers, the lack of Trade Union rights and globalisation. We should support the day of action against racism on 18th March 2017. Also the timetable for Trade Union Act implementation was available. There had been a proposed meeting of the Industrial Action committee to discuss this and how we respond. When was the Industrial Action Committee to be convened?
It was confirmed we were supporting the day of action against racism on 18th March 2017.

Organising update – There was net loss of membership of 2,223 in October 2016 which was disappointing. Public sector membership had dropped. We had had 500 new members from the Durham Teaching assistant’s dispute but there was a loss of 1,390 in schools in October 2016. There was a concern when looked at in the same pot as the proposed merger of NUT (National Union of Teachers) and ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers). 18% of our membership is now in schools.

Finance update – The management accounts for the 10 months to October 2016 were agreed.

NEC elections 2017 – 2019 – The procedures were agreed. The nomination period opens on 9th January 2017.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Personal report of the Development and Organisation (D&O) subcommittee of the UNISON NEC 16th November 2016

There was an extra item tabled on the day which was National Executive Council election procedures 2017.

Criteria had been agreed for Shop front resource centres (a way of organising in local communities and making the union visible) i.e. they served more than one branch and that resources be pooled to run a centre.

There was some discussion of the position EU (European Union) nationals find themselves in following the Brexit vote. Their right to remain depended on EU citizenship. There was a report from a meeting that had taken place of UNISON members in Norwich of members who were EU citizens and of how we tackle issues of discrimination and the reported high levels of racist abuse following the Brexit vote.
Recruitment and membership report – There was a continuing trend of a growth in private but loss in public sector membership. It was noted there was an increase in the numbers employed in schools but that we needed more activists to keep up with this. An NEC member stated that we can get activists when members are motivated because something is going on in the world as in the case of the meeting for the EU citizen UNISON members. The Labour party had doubled or tripled its size in a year and a half but this appeared to have flowed around us could we get some of the Labour Party members who were UNISON members to be more active in the union?
Trade Union subscription rates for Teaching assistants – A table was circulated comparing these. GMB had increased their subs in the last year by 50p, ATL were offering the first year of membership with a 50% reduction, UNITE offer 2 options of payment - a basic rate that offers core union facilities and an enhanced rate that entitles the member to more benefits including insurance offers. UNISON subs change according to salary, some of the other unions subs change just according to number of hours worked. There was a comment from an NEC member that at least one other union was trying to compete with UNISON by asking staff to tick the part time box on the member form so the member would pay less. It was commented that we should be competing on quality as well as price. Disputes like the Teaching assistants disputes in Derby and Durham should be highlighted where UNISON was supporting its members. There was a point made by an NEC member about using retired members as a resource - to do case work - for example. The same NEC member was not convinced about retired members doing recruitment as they would not know the workplace as currently is.
Recruiting and Organising in schools – There were more losses in schools membership than expected in October which it was stated was normally a good month. There were more support staff in schools and we should be recruiting more. The proposed merger of ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) and the NUT (National Union of teachers) was discussed. An NEC member raised the question of why we had not merged with any significant union since Vesting day (1993). Union density had declined overall in the UK in the last 20 years but this was not the case in education. Shouldn’t we be talking to NUT and ATL so we were working together and not poaching each other’s members? It was noted it was easier to recruit other union’s members who were already convinced of the need to be in a union than the portion of the workforce not in any union. Shouldn’t this be a discussion we should be having in the union?
Private Contractors forum – The first Private contractors national forum had taken place in Leeds in November 2016 (established following a rule change agreed at national delegate conference 2016) which it was stated by the national officer had been very successful. Sessions had included ones on Recruiting and Organising and Bargaining with private sector employers.
Learning and Organising report – We received figures showing the number of new stewards elected and trained and there were breakdowns by age range and ethnic origin. We also received the figures for Health and Safety reps and Union Learning reps trained. An NEC member again asked for these figures to be broken down by Service Group. These would be available for the January 2017 meeting. The North West had the second highest number of new stewards elected of any Region January – October 2016.
RMS/WARMS – There will be an assurer doing a membership audit so the union can receive a certificate from the Certification officer in 2017. Regions were aiming to ensure that the 9,000 DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) employers were data cleansed at least once a year. A mobile campaign tool had been developed and delivered to over 200 Fighting fund organisers and Organisers were beginning to use the tool. Branches would determine who would get access to the tool like the situation now with WARMS/RMS due to privacy issues etc. There would be elearning available as with WARMS but this would be much simpler than the WARMS elearning.
Budget bids were approved for Organisation and membership subcommittee of D&O, the Member Liaison Unit, Learning and Organising services, RMS and the Strategic Organising Unit.
Branches under Regional supervision – there were none from the North West.
Certification officer – There were meetings set up for 19th -21st December 2016 regarding complaints made to the Certification officer about the conduct of the General Secretary election 2015.
National Executive Council election procedures – Electoral Reform Services (ERS) had made recommendations following the General Secretary election. Branches can put out a 100 word statement when informing members who they have nominated in the NEC elections e.g. in Branch newsletters.  A photo of a candidate can be included in ballot material. There was some discussion about the timetable which some NEC members suggested was tight in the indicative timetable. This would be reviewed. There would be an extra short meeting before the next full NEC to consider these points and sign off the procedures. Every member of the NEC needed to receive the procedures by the next meeting.
An honorary life membership award was approved in the Eastern Region. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council meeting 12th October 2016.


The President Eric Roberts welcomed everyone to the meeting, and also welcomed back a number of NEC members who had been ill or suffered injury (including me). Thank you again to North West colleagues for the support after my accident at National Delegate Conference in Brighton.
We observed the one minute silence for colleagues who had sadly passed including for Dave Ellis of Kirklees branch. Dave Prentis , General Secretary, the President and Paul Holmes NEC member and Branch Secretary of Kirklees paid tribute to Dave who had died aged 69 from cancer of the oesophagus. Dave was a veteran trade unionist and worked as a caretaker. Dave Prentis said he was special, a socialist, chair of the FE college committee for a number of years and he was ‘the heart and soul of this union’. Paul Holmes said Dave’s silhouette would be painted on the branch banner alongside Tony Benn and Bob Crow.
Sue Hatherley from the South East region had retired and had stood down from the NEC. Angela Roberts was welcomed as a new NEC member from Cymru/Wales.
The President’s charity is the new MIND campaign to deal with mental health issues for staff in the Emergency services. It was hoped this issue would be taken up in branches.
A message of solidarity was sent to striking workers in South Korea. This was part of the S.Korea government plans to privatise public services. There is a hashtag #koreanstrikeforjustice
Dave Prentis in his General Secretary report referred to the disaster in Haiti. The NEC gave power to the Presidential team to give a donation when the call comes from the Disaster Emergency Committee. There was a campaign on to highlight the position of workers and lack of rights for those building stadia for the World Cup in Qatar – a number of Premier league grounds would be leafleted.
Dave referred to the Brexit vote. This could be 2010 again only worse. What would be the effect on public services as Brexit went forward? The latest calculation was that in 18 months there would be a 9/10% drop in Gross Domestic Product. We needed a campaign to make sure the public championed our public services. Alongside Brexit there had been growing racism in this country. We had taken on the BNP, EDL and we would take on racism again in this country. Also referred to was the Orgreave justice campaign and that there should be a public enquiry into what went on at Orgreave. Ethical care charter - 19 Local authorities had signed up to the Ethical Care charter. We needed to spread the word to get a domino effect going.
Dave referred to the Teaching assistants industrial action in Durham and Derby. In Derby staff had received a 25% pay cut. The council had decided to downgrade them with no consultation and protection. The average wage was £18 K to £20k. Some had had difficulty paying rent or mortgage. The leader of the council arrogantly ignored the plight of the workers. It was incumbent on us to make sure we won the dispute and the workers know they have the support of the union. There had been an article in the Guardian newspaper on the dispute.
In Durham a similar thing was proposed (25% pay cut) from January 2017 – there were negotiations ongoing. 70% had vote against the latest offer. The Deputy leader of council had been hardline. UNISON members had been offered 1 year compensation from January 2017. Legal action was also being looked at. The union had asked Jeremy Corbyn, the Local Government association and North East MPs to intervene. UNISON has recruited 500 teaching assistants. There was also industrial action taking place at Further Education colleges in Scotland.

We had been through the TUC and Labour Party conferences. An incredible amount of work had been done by the union since the conference in June. The big battle would be to keep employment rights.
The NEC sent a message of support to the teaching assistants and the members taking action at the FE colleges in Scotland.
John Jones from WET and the North West asked that the General Secretary report be higher on the agenda in the future as was the case today and also raised concern for the Local Government Pension Scheme and attempts to restrict redundancy, pension and other ‘exit’ payments.
Roger Bannister from the North West asked if we could approach Jeremy Corbyn to get a general statement from him about actions of some Labour local authorities about unilateral variation of contracts and dismiss and reengage - not acceptable actions from Labour councils.
Dave Prentis said public sector exit payments was becoming a bigger and bigger issue. There were talks taking place in the civil service where it was understood the 2 biggest unions had rejected the offer. Our position was to reject the proposals and it would be an issue for Service Groups. We had to co-ordinate our response.
Our position on the Jeremy Corbyn election was that we nominated Jeremy and we had supported Jeremy going directly on the election paper. We had put Jeremy on the ballot paper.
What the Tories do would lead to the economy contracting and there would likely be cuts to public services.
An NEC member asked if we should support (as the largest union in the NHS) a national demo in support of the NHS in the New Year. Keep our NHS public and others were looking at this.
Dave said January was not a good time for a national demonstration and there was an issue of having time to build for the demo. It would be an issue for the Health Service Group Executive.
I asked that a message be sent from the NEC (to say how proud we were of them) to Dave Anderson and Angela Rayner (both former NEC members) in the Labour shadow cabinet. Both had stepped up to the plate following the shadow cabinet resignations during the summer. Angie was now Shadow Education secretary leading the campaign against the Tory grammar schools and had been high profile on TV leading the campaign etc. and had emerged as a significant political figure.
I also asked could we review the fact we have not met as a full NEC since June 24th 2016 and since then we had had the Brexit vote - arguably the biggest political crisis since the Second World War, the increase in racism and renewed threats to workers’ rights etc. Had we not missed a trick by not meeting over the summer?  
In response to a criticism from an NEC member Dave said he didn’t say we couldn’t run a demonstration in January 2017 – we would take a lead from the Health SGE but January was still not a good month.
Organising update – August was a slow month for recruitment but this year was better than the previous 2 years although there was still a net drop in membership. A significant number of our existing and new members are EU citizens. They now face an uncertain future as a result of the Brexit vote. There was a campaign for the ‘right to remain’.
Public Service champions campaign – One of the Assistant General Secretary’s lead on this – this was a campaign post Brexit and with a new Tory administration and in the wake of Motion 31 (‘Public services under pressure’) at national conference. We had done surveys over the summer about how members feel about the political situation. The objectives of the campaign were that UNISON continues to be positioned as the expert on Public service provision, to highlight the valuable work our members do, to build public awareness of the pressure on public services , to build hard-line policy and political argument as we go into a more fraught political phase. Launched at the Labour Party conference on 26th September 2016, Adverts have gone out on radio, press and billboards. The response of members to the surveys was that no one ever said thank you for all the extra effort they were putting in. The thank you was to make members feel good about themselves. At the end of October phase of the campaign the message would be that this is all at risk because of the Government. The campaign was geared towards the budget statement at the end of November 2016. It is a 5 year campaign.
Whilst most NEC members had no concern about the content of the campaign however as the campaign was a 5 year long one some questions were asked about where did it come from in lay structures?, shouldn’t it have been discussed by the whole NEC and why was there a verbal report not a written report. We needed to take ownership of it and bring it into the proper democratic structures of the NEC. Again there had been a disbenefit by us not having an NEC meeting over the summer.   
Service Group update –We received an update on bargaining and pay campaigns across all the union’s service groups, most often there was reported a 1% pay offer although noting that the lowest NHS pay band had been abolished in Scotland from 1 October, leading to a £3,000 a year pay rise for the lowest paid workers. Questions were raised by some NEC members about the Trade Union act and our ability to organise national industrial action. The Industrial action committee would meet to discuss the implications of the Act.
Finance – We approved the union’s accounts for the first eight months of the year.


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Personal report of the Development and Organisation (D&O) subcommittee of the UNISON NEC 21st September 2016


Membership and recruitment – the number of new joiners was up on the same month in the previous 2 years. There was growth in private sector recruitment (2,723 YTD Year To Date) but a loss of 20,417 in the public sector YTD. 98,187 members were recruited in the YTD to the end of August 2016 but 115,881 left membership in the same period.
There was a comment from an NEC member that another union was encouraging new recruits to tick the part time box to get lower subs. There was discussion on the proposed merger between NUT And ATL. ATL should not recruit in state schools - in practice this was not the case. Comparison of subs information from various unions would be circulated to members of the Committee.
There was a report titled ‘Cloud sourcing/Uberisation – a new organising challenge’. This outlines the challenges and opportunities afforded by the likes of Deliveroo and Uber etc and the need to unionise in this area. Service groups are to be liaised with regarding such false self-employment particularly in public service provision.
UNISON Organising app upcoming developments - There is a new app which is a development on the existing UNISON organising app, which aims to increase user interaction. There are an estimated 900,000 smartphone users amongst our 1.3 million members. This would encourage the Smartphone users among our 1.3million to participate more fully with UNISON organising activity. The App will be based on ‘gamification’, specifically designed to encourage three audience areas; membership, activism and organising.
A membership audit certificate is required by UNISON in 2017. The audit will focus on how member records are added, updated and removed from the membership system and also how paper application forms are handled and how we ensure invalid addresses are corrected. 
DOCAS admin charges – over the summer RMS Operations have been developing systems that will enable the union to view and monitor DOCAS administrative charges. 
There was a presentation about the UNISON digital strategy with a cautionary note that nothing is ever going to beat face to face interaction.  The traditional workplace is changing and digital empowers people to do things for themselves. Members expectations are changing and young members in particular. Work streams are 1. Ensure all staff and activists are able to make the most of digital. 2. Getting members more active and engaged through digital interactions. 3. Improving the digital experience members have at key points. 
The national officer responsible for Young members reported on the UNISON Young members weekend held in Leicester in May this year. 100 members attended with 8 from the North West. 70% of those attending stated that it would help them get more active in UNISON. The weekend included a street campaigning exercise where delegates undertook petitioning for a statutory Living wage. 
An updated report was circulated on the unions ‘evidence’ based approach to reasonable adjustments. The guide has been produced in consultation with national disabled members committee. This guide will apply to all Regions and branches. A question was raised as to whether branches can access national funds for expensive adjustments. A definitive answer could not be provided and the officer was to seek legal advice. Explanations were given on what the legal definition of disability is, what the 3 requirements of the duty are, what a single gateway scheme is, how the evidence based process incorporates both elements of the medical and social model and what application and approval process is for the submission of requests for reasonable adjustments. 
Certification Officer – Notice of a preliminary hearing 8th October 2016 (Complaints re 2015 General Secretary Election) with substantive hearing scheduled for 3rd and 4th November 2016. 
The Motions referred from Conference together with the rule amendment changes were considered.
An organising response to the Trade Union bill, Organising for growth in the Community and Voluntary sector, Supporting our activists who have to deal with stressful situations, Bullying and Young members, Strengthening our union – supporting and Developing our stewards, Trade Union facilities, Branch self-organised groups. 
Honorary Life membership was agreed for Brian Morris from 5 Boroughs health branch (North West Region). Brian has been staff side secretary in the 5 Boroughs trust for 20 years and has been a member for 35 years.