Thursday, 27 December 2018

Personal report of Development and Organisation sub committee of UNISON NEC 21st November 2018

Organising and recruitment report – We received a report on the work of the Strategic Organising unit in companies like Sodexho and Compass and also an organising resource centres report. Branches were working together at local level. It was important we had visibility to members. There was not 1 model that fitted all however. An NEC member from the North West asked whilst we were breaking even and going for growth in some areas what work nationally was being done around member retention? It was stated there were lots of reasons members join. The sooner we got to new members the more likely they were to do something in the union. An officer stated that by contacting members e.g. just by a message on the phone to ask is all OK? Makes a statistical difference to retention.

Proposal for a protocol to govern the relationship between UNISON and the National Black Police Association (NBPA) – an officer presented this report which was a long standing piece of work with the Police and Justice Service group. Service to members NEC subcommittee had endorsed the protocol. The aim was working with sister organisations that shared our objectives and to sort out spheres of influence. The impetus for the protocol had come from a series of individual cases where UNISON and the local BPA were seeking to represent a member who was both a UNISON and BPA member. An NEC member asked would this be discussed at the national black members committee? It was stated the protocol would be run past them. 

Learning and organising activity – More stewards were being ERA (Employment Relations Act) accredited this year than last. The ERA refresher courses were holding steady. There was an update on activist advanced training (e.g. Negotiating and bargaining, developing representational skills, employment law etc.). An NEC member from the North West asked that whilst it was useful to see the uptake of national training courses a lot of the courses had run for donkey’s years. Were there plans for smaller refresher courses and brand new courses to reflect the world of work in 2019? An NEC member asked could the reports whilst welcome in their level of detail be a bit less statistical and more qualitative. An NEC member highlighted the importance of national political education. Everything we do is political and to make a difference you have to be political. I made a point about succession planning in branches and how to mentor younger members and that this should be a discussion in this committee. There was discussion of the need for anti-racist education of members and activists given the current climate. 

RMS update – RMS (Replacement membership system) was 17 years old. WARMS (Web access RMS) for activists had been around a number of years. A company called Hartsquare had been asked to undertake a review of the membership system.  There was a project to deliver an improved member experience - a digital hub that integrates with the membership system. More detail would be given at the January meeting. As part of general communications we would be asking members who pay by Direct Debit (DD) to ensure they are paying the correct level of subs. This exercise is undertaken by employers for members paying by DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) in October of every year. There would be an improved version of the bulk email facility from WARMS. There was an online demonstration given of the MCT (Member Contact tool for tablets, smartphones etc.) at the meeting. There was to be a pilot of this tool for activists. Members personal details would be masked but the tool would be able to verify member’s membership, identify where there was missing information, record responses when making contact with new joiners, record workplace visits and enter organising information. 

Data protection update – There was a suite of resources available on the UNISON website including Branch data protection handbook, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) e-note, GDPR training webcast, Branch data retention schedule, GDPR factsheet for school support staff, Guidance to branches on use of email systems. There had been 103 subject access requests (SAR’s) received (Jan 2018 – Oct 2018). There were 57 in the whole of last year. 38 requested data deletion. 94 breaches reported internally since GDPR came into force (Top 3 were lost items, cc not bcc, incorrect email recipients). 6 data protection breaches had been proactively reported to Information Commissioner’s Office. WARMS does provide a bulk emailing system which is GDPR compliant. There was a feasibility study next year for a UNISON case management system. 

Branches under regional supervision – there were none in the North West. It was restated that Regional Convenor’s comments must accompany these reports. 

Certification Officer – no decisions were reported. 

National Executive Council election procedures 2019 – These were statutory elections and so didn’t include the provision (not permitted by law) for electronic balloting as had been the case for Service Group Executive (SGE) elections. It was stated that these election procedures were based on the SGE election procedures agreed the previous year.

There was debate on paragraph 57 of the election procedures. 

Para 57 states: 

‘To ensure that UNISON remains an independent and representative trade union where all members have the right to fully and fairly participate, no nominee or candidate shall invite or accept any donation or contribution in money or kind from any outside organisation or company, including from any provider of goods or services to UNISON, any political party, or any employer in which UNISON organises. For the avoidance of doubt, an ‘outside organisation or company’ includes but is not limited to, an organisation, club, association or other entity which consists wholly or partly of UNISON members and which is not provided for in UNISON rules. In determining whether or not something fits into this category, income, resources and formal structures would be considered. This is not an exhaustive list.’ 

It was proposed by a North West NEC member that the section after ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ be deleted as this was a change from what we had discussed last time and infringed on the right of members to campaign. There was a broad left in UNISON that was not external. It would be dangerous and divisive to go down that route. 

I said that I agreed with my fellow NW NEC member and said that at the last NEC elections there were 2 clearly defined slates – UNISON Action broad left and Stronger UNISON. Most if not all of those on the NEC got elected on one of those 2 slates. This was a positive as there was a tradition in this and other Trade Unions of democratic debate and exchange of ideas on how to take the union forward. The proposal appeared to be closing down debate and campaigning in the union. Another NEC member asked why further restrictions that went beyond the SGE elections were being proposed? We were not talking about outside political organisations we were talking about groups of UNISON members. It was stated by the Chair of D&O that factions were not part of the union. Another NEC member said he had no problem if a platform in the union wanted to move us forward, favoured the status quo or move us backwards they should have a right to put those ideas forward. Ordinary members would struggle with the concept that an association wholly of UNISON members was being deemed to be an outside organisation. Another NEC member said there were clear differences between UNISON Action and Stronger UNISON last time and that had put members in a difficult position. 

The vote was taken in favour of the wording presented. The vote was 11 to 9. I voted AGAINST and was one of the 9 who wanted the section deleted. 

In reference to para 60 what was a UNISON resource it was clarified that a UNISON banner behind a candidate in a photo was allowed.

Appendix G of the election procedures (Guidance for UNISON staff members regarding campaigning activities relating to UNISON elections). Para 1 states ‘Staff may want to participate in the elections by supporting a particular candidate or candidates. With the exception of those outlined in Section 5, UNISON recognises that this is legitimate, however it must be in their own time and not using any UNISON resources as set out below’.  An NEC member said as staff can’t vote in NEC elections they shouldn’t be able to campaign in elections. Another NEC member from the North West said that if the Broad Left can’t campaign neither should staff members. 

A vote was taken 11 in favour of keeping this in the procedures and 8 against. I voted AGAINST and was one of the 8. 

Chair’s action – there was none.

An honorary life membership was agreed in the South East Region. 

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Personal report of UNISON National Executive Council 17th October 2018

This was the first full NEC meeting since June. The meeting opened with a discussion of the Grovember recruitment campaign for November 2018. We were to use the principal of ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ to boost recruitment. This means small improvements in our processes can add up to a positive step change in our recruitment. Regions already had plans in place. An NEC member raised an issue of how in his branch members had not been able to join online and pay by DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) recently. The Chair of D&O (Development and Organisation) said this would be looked into. Another member said Grovember was welcome his branch had a week of events lined up but asked could the new look member forms (after Trade Union Act changes) be personalised with branch contact details.
Organising report – we were now officially the largest Trade Union in the UK. An NEC member asked for guidance to be issued on the level of subs agency and bank staff should be paying as this was unclear. Another NEC member said his branch had 650 retired members and each time they are mailed (costing hundreds of pounds) mail had been returned unfortunately because of recently deceased members. Were there GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) implications of holding data on retired members who have passed away? 
General Secretary report– Dave Prentis referred to the previous discussion and said converting the whole union to Direct debit as could have been the case with the original Trade Union bill proposals could have broken the union but we had managed to get into parliament to lobby MPs to get changes to the Trade Union bill and we should remember this. 
There had been a number of Industrial Action successes including at Wigan, Wrightington and Leigh in the North West against Subco’s (Subsidiary companies – where NHS Trusts have been setting up private subsidiary companies (Subco’s) and transferring Trust assets including staff). This SubCo had been stopped. UNISON Industrial action had caused a pause on the roll out of the Subcos. 
Birmingham care workers had taken action. One of the Assistant General Secretaries had been involved in the negotiations. We had taken their case to the Labour conference. Members had beaten the Trade Union Act (in terms of ballot turnout) in a number of local disputes. There was the Barnsley dispute involving school meals supervisors. Members were now ‘putting their heads above the parapet.’ There was the strike by 8,000 low-paid women in Glasgow taking action to demand equal pay. 
Our recruiting and organising agenda was to build up membership density and break the horrors of austerity.
We had been involved over the recent months in the NHS at 70 demo, the Stop Trump demo in July, Black history month and the Wear red day for Show racism the red card. Over the summer 100,000 workers had gone onto the Living Wage due to the NHS pay deal. 
The President referred to an article on behalf of the Labour link committee that Dave Prentis, General Secretary had written for the New Statesman magazine suggesting Labour should adopt the full IHRA (International Holocaust remembrance alliance) definition of anti-Semitism with all it’s examples. It was stated by the President we were not discussing Labour link business. 
An NEC member from London asked about the Certification Officer report into the conduct of the General Secretary election 2015. Paid officials of the union had broken the union’s election rules. The NEC members understanding was that there was no legal embargo on discussing this and as appellants had withdrawn their appeal, what was the timescale for the review of this to be? The Development and Organisation subcommittee of the NEC had not seen the report.  The President gave a commitment that the Certification Officer report would be discussed at the NEC but stated that all outstanding cases were not finished. 
An NEC member from the North West asked for an update on the review of the next phase of Fighting Fund Organisers (FFO’s). The North West Regional Committee had asked about this.
I made a contribution about the 17th November anti- racism demo in London which the TUC had voted to support at Congress recently – the fascists and UKIP (following their electoral failure) were turning to street organising, the US Alt right and Trump were giving them a boost. Tommy Robinson was using Islamophobia to try to build. But there was more awareness of the true nature of groups like the Football lads alliances. November 17th (the national unity demo against racism and fascism) we should build as far as possible and we should take heart from the 200,000 anti-racists who had recently marched in Berlin. I asked that communications be sent out from the union nationally publicising the 17th November demo. 
An NEC member raised an issue of that perhaps guidance could be sent to branches on keeping members safe on anti-racist and anti-fascist demos. 
Paul Holmes, NEC member for Local Government referred to disputes in Yorkshire and Humberside Region like Grimethorpe where there were plans to cut school dinners supervisors and replace them with Teaching assistants to supervise meals. Paul managed to get 2 quotes from Napoleon in his contribution. ‘If everything is equal morale is 90% of the battle’. And ‘the only one who knows more than anyone is everyone.’ And included a quote from the band the Stranglers to countermand Napoleon’s quotes - the mood on the ground amongst members as a result of austerity was that ‘something better change’. We should publish our successes with Industrial Action but also the percentages voting in ballots. Branch organisation was essential to get good turnouts in ballots. 
An NEC member who worked in the NHS referred to the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) General council stepping down following a vote of no confidence after putting similar if not identical information to the material that UNISON had distributed on the NHS pay offer and stated that branches at local level had been left to fight alone. In reply an NEC member who was a member of the Health SGE (Service Group Executive) said the RCN ran into trouble for saying things that weren’t true and by not using joint union materials. UNISON had given members accurate information. 
Dave Prentis said in regard to the 17th November 2018 anti-racism demo in London (TUC were supporting) - we needed to be able to demonstrate and avoid violence. The demo was called at short notice but we would be supporting the demo and expected members to attend. 
There was no intention to stop Fighting Fund Organiser’s - we needed to put money in the budget. 
An NEC member from the North West asked what the basis for the article on IHRA in the New Statesman was. On anti-semitism, Dave Prentis said the NEC had made a decision at an earlier meeting – Anti Semitism is racism and is against the values of UNISON. This was accepted by the NEC at the time. The Labour link committee decision was an internal Labour Party process issue not a policy issue outside of the Labour Party. GMB and UNITE had done the same. This would not impinge on our Palestinian work (i.e. by Labour link committee adopting IHRA definition). We opposed the blockade of Gaza, the illegal settlements and called out the shooting of unarmed civilians. We are the strongest union as far as the work on Palestine goes and we are part of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). We had called for the ending of the detention of children. The IHRA does not stop the UNISON position on Palestine. An NEC member said some people would make mischief and try and use the IHRA definition to silence criticism of Israeli government policy and actions - this had happened in her branch. 
Dave Prentis said a message of support would be sent to Somerset county council where 130 job losses were proposed as part of cuts and also the Bolton, Birmingham and Grimethorpe disputes. 
Dave said he would be in Bolton the following Tuesday for the Bolton iFM dispute (a subco of the NHS Trust where the staff were in dispute over not receiving the nationally agreed 3 year pay deal for NHS staff) picket line. 
An NEC member said we should send a message of support to the 3 anti-fracking activists who had been sent to prison for peaceful direct action against the Cuadrilla site in Lancashire. The Judge in the case had direct family connections to the energy industry. The same NEC member also stated that there was a danger some councils could misuse the IHRA definition (see above) to target UNISON activists. 
Service Group campaigns – There was a national libraries demo on Saturday 3rd November 2018. Materials had gone out already encouraging members to attend. There would be a major campaign in 2019 to raise the profile of Local Government workers and their occupations. 
Finance – It was reported that the union had accrued a surplus of £3.3 million in the first 8 months of the accounting year (Jan-Aug). This had been added to reserves. 2019 budgets were being set. Requests had come in which would lead to a £7 million deficit against projected income. There would be further discussions to lead to agreement about what the union could afford. A question was raised about when branches would hear about their ‘activity based budgeting uplifts for 2018. The Chair of Finance confirmed she hoped for decisions to be communicated before the end of the following week. 
The Campaign Fund subcommittee of the NEC (formerly the GPF – General Political Fund) – there were 2 vacancies. NEC members could self-nominate and there would be a vote following the NEC meeting in December. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Personal report of Development and Organisation sub committee of UNISON NEC 19th September 2018

UNISON was now officially the largest union in the country according to the Certification Officer.

The August recruitment figures were the best in 10 years. August was traditionally a difficult month for recruitment. 
One of the Assistant General Secretaries did a presentation on the November 2018 recruitment campaign (now called Grovember). It was the union’s 25th birthday – it should be used as an opportunity to grow membership. There were slides on the reasons people join the union. These may partly be down to Geography (e.g. North West, North East, Scotland where there are higher levels of Trade Unionism), family background (other family members are already members of a Trade Union), smaller percentages joining where members are more politically driven. Online joiners were now more than 70%. The join online process had been quickened so it now took 3 minutes on average to join online rather than 6 minutes. The union had been doing Marketing and advertising to support on the ground recruitment and get to hard to reach groups. Branches were a fundamental part of the recruitment strategy.  For 4 weeks in November we were to push the boat out. The aim would be to recruit a member for each activist giving 20,000 new members. We owed it to the care workers working 40 to 50 hours a week for a pittance or the young people in call centres on Zero Hours contracts with no toilet or lunch breaks who had to be in a union. Every conversation would build our strength. NEC members commented this was always a worthwhile discussion to have on how to maximise recruitment and for there to be a boost from the centre - the reasons members join could be one or a combination of reasons cited. Small things could help recruitment e.g. a branch producing a ‘Your rights at work’ card you could put in your wallet or purse for isolated workplaces with no access to a rep. Another NEC member gave an example where a branch in his Region (East Dunbartonshire) had had a spike in recruitment as a result of a campaign of industrial action to protect member’s terms and conditions. 
Learning and Organising activity – John Jones from the North West stated we struggled to recruit Union Learning reps compared to stewards and Health and Safety reps. There were ongoing issues the union was having at Ruskin College, Oxford which had previously been a bastion of Trade Unionism but was developing into a business under the current principal. 
A new co-branded E careers website had been launched offering UNISON members a discount on a range of online courses. 
5 new workshops had been commissioned with the WEA: Be safe online, Family History, Study skills, and Introductions to return to learn and Women’s lives. 
Continued development of the RMS (UNISON membership system) – On retention of current members a welcome phone call (had the member received a pack, was all OK?) had been shown to have improved retention. It was noted equalities data was not on the membership form. This was not a requirement of joining under GDPR (General Data Protection regulations). WARMS elearning had been updated. 
Concern was expressed about Branches using Outlook calendar to invite for General Membership meetings. The union had discouraged this as it could compromise GDPR. In response to a question Branch activists meetings invites (Branch Committee meetings) do not breach these regulations. 
200 Branch Secretaries don’t have access to WARMS (Web Access RMS) – access will be provided automatically and if they wish only to access membership reports they only have to complete 3 Elearning modules rather than the complete set. 
75 Subject access requests had been put in already in 2018.The fee had gone for this and there was more awareness of GDPR from members which had been in the news for a month every day (in May 2018). 
Branches under Regional supervision – There were none in the North West. Regional Convenors comments on reports now have to be submitted to D&O committee. 
Turn out in SGE (Service Group Executive) internal UNISON elections had increased as a result of electronic voting. ERS (Electoral Reform Services) had recommended that wherever allowable the union should consider an online voting option to increase participation. 
A number of honorary life membership awards were approved.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Personal report of UNISON National Executive Council 6th June 2018

There was a meeting immediately following the NEC meeting of Labour link payers to nominate for the vacant reserved seat on national labour link committee.

The first part of the meeting dealt with NEC policy on Motions, amendments to motions and rule amendments for national conference 2018 in Brighton. The overwhelming majority the NEC position was to support – exceptions - Defer a decision on 72 Democratic socialism, 76 and 77 Universal basic income and 129 Branch funding. Motion 130,131 - A case system for UNISON branches – it was felt we were not technically able to do this at the moment but work would be ongoing to see how this could be facilitated.

Rule D a proposal to change male seats and black male seats on the NEC to general seats from women’s committee – this was left to conference to decide (the position brought to NEC from D&O subcommittee of NEC). 3 black members of the NEC spoke passionately in favour of the NEC taking a view and opposing the rule change as there were fears black men will see their under-representation increased. The Chair of D&O stated that delegates will get up and speak in a heartfelt manner from a variety of viewpoints. A vote was taken 33 to 11 to leave it to conference to decide. I was one of the 33.

A rule amendment from Bolton branch to change the maximum period a member could be barred from holding office after a disciplinary process from 36 months to 24 months – the majority of the NEC opposed this – there were 8 votes against and 3 abstentions. I abstained as I am bound by collective responsibility as a member of Development and Organisation subcommittee whose remit the proposed rule change is (see D&O report 16/05/18) having supported the rule amendment on D&O.

Amendments to motions – Again on the overwhelming majority of these the NEC position was to support – an exception was 20.2 amendment ‘Protecting our members and growing in Private contractors’ to a motion on outsourcing and Carillion - the position was seek withdrawal. The majority of the NEC were in favour of this position (Policy, Development and campaigns committee PDCC subcommittee had voted to bring this position to NEC).

There are 4 composite motions all supported - A. Strategic review of UNISON B. Palestine – End the detention of children C. Wholly owned subsidiary companies D. Universal Credit.

Draft order of business – Andrea Egan, NEC member from the North West Region asked had we managed to secure Jeremy Corbyn as speaker at conference? It was reported that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘extremely keen to accept’ the invite. We would be extremely flexible in trying to accommodate him.

Emergency motions – 1. Justice for the Windrush generation – the hostile environment should never have been discussed. 2. Stop Trump campaign. Dave Prentis, General Secretary had committed us to be a leader on this. Both unanimously supported.

General Secretary’s report – Dave Prentis congratulated NEC member Angie Roberts on attending the Jo Cox women in leadership programme. The national TUC demo on 12th May 2018 – it was reported that UNISON made up more than half the demo. Dave said we should have led the demo. We are working with the People’s assembly to make the NHS 70th birthday demo on 30th June 2018 a big success.

The 9th June 2018 counter demo in London to the racist and fascist ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ march. Dave said we did support the counter demo. The FLA and DFLA (Football lads alliances) were far right groupings. We are for the eradication of racism. Racism is against the values of our union.

Dave had met Michael Braithwaite one of the Windrush generation. NEC member Hugo Pierre from the Camden branch was his steward – a thank you was given to Hugo. Through UNISON’s support Michael had secured his legal status in the UK and had a chance to return to his old job.

A delegation had been sent to Northampton County council leadership to try to make sure workers did not pay the price of the Tories incompetence (the council had run out of money).

Palestine – the situation was a ‘massacre’ - 100 had been killed and 12,000 injured in Gaza. Ambulance workers had risked their lives to rescue protesters. A 2 state solution needed to be formulated as quickly as possible. The move of the US embassy to Jerusalem – there was no need for this and Trump knew what he was doing.

Dave went through a number of disputes where UNISON members are taking action. It was crucial we were not held back by the anti-union legislation. In Wigan NHS members had taken 2 days of strike action against plans to transfer them to a private company. There was a dispute in Kirklees cleansing department. Kirklees college dispute was settled with the branch meeting its negotiating objectives.

Croyde Bay holiday centre was congratulated for achieving a Trip Advisor award for excellence.

Questions and statements to the report: Kirklees bin workers had got a big majority on turnout and yes vote. An NEC member said we needed to prioritise our anti-racist and anti-fascist work so that it became mainstream and should anti-racist fringe meetings not be in the conference venue itself? It was stated it was too late for this year although there were at least 2 fringe meetings on opposing racism. The North West Region had set up it’s own collective action teams involving groups of Regional staff who go into branches to support members and to help win ballots of members. Too often branches had had to learn for themselves on the fly due to an absence of strategic support.

I reported back on the 2 counter demos organised by Stand up to racism, Trade Unions and local labour councillors in Manchester against the racist FLA and DFLA who had tried to exploit the anniversary of the Arena attack for bigoted, racist ends. The UNISON national banner had been on both counter protests.

Palestine – members were encouraged to get motions passed at their branches supporting medical aid for Palestinians.

Organising update – April was usually a poor month. 30% of new joiners were now in the private sector. It was getting harder to get people to sign up to the political funds when people join online (because of not having face to face conversations).

Service Group pay campaigns - We were identifying strategic disputes e.g. at WWL in Wigan. If we could successfully hold off staff being moved to subsidiary it would send a clear message to other employers. Paul Holmes, NEC member for Local Government said the national union needed to make sure the message about strategic disputes was received in the Regions. Often the delay in securing Industrial Action ballots was not down to the national office or national Industrial Action Committee. Urgency needed to be impressed on Regional offices.

Health – In response to the national Secretary for Health’s report – on Agenda for Change the ballot on the pay offer had closed the previous day the turnout was ‘just short of 30%’. Karen Reissmann, NW NEC member raised concerns about restrictions being put on branches in terms of what they could and couldn’t do during the ballot period. There was nothing in the rule book to stop branches having a different opinion than their Service Group Executive (SGE). In other Service Groups branches had made their own recommendations.

In response to the national secretary for Local Government’s report, Sean Fox, an NEC member from the London Region said the NJC Pay award (Local Government) was complicated we needed to make this stick in non-core employers to make sure the people benefited who should be benefiting. All 3 unions had accepted the offer in Police and Justice after a slight improvement to it.

Finance – There was a slight decline in DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) income but the DOCAS work as a result of the Trade Union Act was very positive. Direct Debit (DD) income was positive. The Financial statements were signed off for 2017 and the external auditors had reported that the statements were accurate. The Industrial Action Fund had £29.7 million. At the end of 2017 there were £244 million reserves excluding pension liability.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Personal report of Development and Organisation sub committee of UNISON NEC 16th May 2018

Motions submitted to national conference re: the 25 year review of UNISON would likely generate more work for D&O.
Recruiting – we were the best recruiting union in the UK – the challenge was retaining members. Recruitment of young members was slightly down. Recruitment was variable across the Regions. Our key challenge was in the 150,000 workplaces covering 35,000 employers – We needed more activists.
There was an agenda item the snappily titled ‘Every one of our 20,000 activists to recruit 8 members’ – in our 25th anniversary year we needed to recruit and turn members into activists’. An NEC member said we needed to recruit definitely but we should think how we pitched this on top of the work we had already got.
DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at source) update – 95 to 96% of our income had been secured (Trade Union Act changes).
Learning and organising services – We needed to recruit more Union learning reps. (ULR’s).
Schools campaign activity – there had been significant job cuts. Schools in Scotland had faced a 20% cut. The £10 introductory offer by the NEU (National Education Union) had been a significant issue last year. Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary referred to unnecessary competition between unions going after the same people already in a union – this was not growing the Trade Union movement.
RMS/WARMS update (UNISON membership system) It was good to know we were already GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) compliant. I asked a question about a recent occasion where there had been lengthy downtime of the system over several consecutive days – this it was stated was due to infrastructure changes. Audit certificate – for compliance we needed evidence of when people joined, were lapsed etc. to show adequate controls were in place.
Appendix 2 – guidance on the use of the new Appendix 2 (for dealing with misconduct by members in relation to UNISON employees) had been produced including guidance on investigation panels and the conduct of meetings and this was agreed.
Women’s conference motions referred to D&O – these action points were for noting.
National Delegate Conference (NDC) 2018 – provisional policy on motions and amendments to motions and rule amendments – The motions were all support except deferred was policy on M130, M131  - ‘a case system for UNISON branches’. This would be discussed at the June meeting before national conference. A proposed rule amendment from women’s conference to change male seats and black members male seats on the NEC to general seats – this was left open to conference to decide. John Jones, North West NEC member and from the Water, Environment and Transport (WET) service group said WET Service Group Executive had mandated him to oppose this – all on WET exec. Except one had been against. I said if the NEC opposed outright it would be likely some would support for this reason. A vote was taken – 2 voted that our policy would be to oppose the rule amendment the rest (including me) to leave to conference to decide. Disciplinary action (Rule I) – a motion from Bolton branch proposed to change the maximum period a member could be barred from holding office from 3 to 2 years. The argument from 1 or 2 NEC members was that if the change was to 2 years and it was a serious case there was more likely to be a dismissal (expulsion) from membership. An NEC member from the London Region said that in the previous debates at NDC, 2 years was on the table but had been withdrawn to seek consensus and if 3 years as had been stated was not used then leave it as is as a last resort. An NEC member said that if an employer had 15 months for a final written warning and we had 2 years – how would it look if the union was harder? It was stated that if the alleged disciplinary offence was financial irregularity the member usually resigned before it got to the discipline stage. A vote was taken such that our policy was to oppose these rule amendments (RA11,12) 12 votes to 7. I was one of the 7 (I.e. in favour of the move to 2 years from 3).
Branches in Regional supervision (this was usually by Chair’s action). We were asked to endorse one particular case where there appeared to be insufficient information provided and some including me were uncomfortable in endorsing this. A vote was taken - 11 supported placing the branch in Regional supervision, 6 opposed and there was 1 abstention. I voted to oppose.
Certification Officer – there was nothing to report.
A number of nominations for places at the TUC Congress in September were agreed.

Nominations for the TUC learning rep, Health and Safety and organising and Women’s gold badge awards were agreed.
Chair’s actions – agreed that a branch in the North West - a retired member could be Treasurer for a year. Another larger branch in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region a similar request was refused – there was no reason they could not find a full member to undertake the role. In response to a query – unemployed members could not hold branch officer positions unless approved by the NEC. 

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council 7th February 2018

The President opened the meeting by referring to the sad passing of Irene Stacey a long standing NEC member from the London Region after a long battle with cancer and Assistant General Secretary Cliff Williams previously Regional Secretary of Yorkshire and Humberside Region who had had a career spanning 30 years in the union. The NEC held a minutes silence to remember Irene and Cliff and other colleagues who had passed away.
It was decided for the first time there would be a 3 minute limit on speeches.
New application forms to comply with the (anti) Trade Union Act would be circulated soon with the current ones all needing to be destroyed.
We considered NEC motions to go National Delegate Conference in Brighton in June.

1.    Resourcing and reshaping our union – 25 years since the formation of UNISON there was to be a wide ranging review of the union a task force would be established comprising key stakeholders.  An NEC member asked about the make-up of the task force and asked for further detail regarding accountability, inclusiveness and transparency. It was stated that if the motion was passed it would come back to the July NEC and there would be a decision on the make-up of the task force.

2.    Turning the union into an organising union. A couple of NEC members referred to the recent collapse of Carillion and Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that this was a watershed moment. We should look forward to less privatisation and services being brought back in house.

3.    Learning for the future.

4.     Workers rights in Turkey – an NEC asked that reference be made to the Turkish states        bombing of Kurds in Syria. This was agreed. 

5.    Modern slavery.

6.     Public service champions 2018/2019.

7.     The UK EU withdrawal bill and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

8.     Cuts to our safety net.

9.    Education is a public service – A long motion and it had been quite a while since there had been a debate about education at conference.

10.   The crisis in health and social care.

11.   Pay up Now! – real pay rises for all public service workers.

12.   Tackling Xenophobia and the far right. An NEC member made a good point about the rise of racism and xenophobia being linked to ongoing austerity. The motion included organising opposition to Trump and any potential visit by Trump to Britain also to encourage branches affiliating and continuing to work with Hope not hate, Show Racism the Red Card and Stand up to Racism;

There was an update on the work done as a result of the (anti) Trade Union Act. New application forms to comply with the Act would be circulated with the current ones all needing to be destroyed then. I asked a question about this – we needed to make a compelling case for members to opt into the political funds, face to face conversations would be important and these changes had to be in place by 1st March - did we have examples of what the new membership forms and online forms would look like? It was stated that a lot of work had gone on on systems, training staff, new forms would be dispatched to branches soon. Dave Prentis, General Secretary stated that we had made it clear to the Labour Party we wanted the Trade Union Act repealed when a Labour government was elected.
Paul Holmes, NEC member for Local Government stated that between 1997 and 2010 the Labour government had not repealed one piece of the previous Tory anti-Trade Union legislation. We should not forget this. Tony Blair’s biggest disappointment was not breaking the link between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. It was a sign of how healthy the relationship now was between the Labour Party and unions that when Dave said they should repeal the act we expected a Labour government to do so.
Proposed rule changes – A rule amendment was agreed that allowed the NEC to revoke honorary life membership from individuals where a Rule I disciplinary process was not feasible or practical. There was a lengthy debate over a rule change that would exclude branch employed staff from participating as UNISON activists. It was stated this was bringing branch employed staff and national employed staff under the same rule and was translating what was already in the Code of Good Branch practice into the Rule book. A number of NEC members said we were not in a situation like 20 years ago the union was now fragmented with branches covering a number of different employers a member could for example work half time as a Local Government convenor employed by the council and be an activist but also the other employed half time as an organiser in the voluntary sector by the branch. The model didn’t fit with what branches are doing now. We should look at the full extent of the problem first before trying to solve it. In reply it was stated individuals should be an employee of UNISON or a lay member either the one or the other but not both. The proposed rule amendment was agreed by the NEC. There was a further rule amendment proposed that meant the same individual could not be both Branch Chair and Branch Secretary (i.e. strategic posts). Also a proposed rule change that Branch officers could not be employed in a branch – in line with the Code of Good Branch practice.
Finance update – a report was given by a member of Finance NEC subcommittee. Steve North, NEC member North West Region asked in relation to Financial challenges facing the union – had there been a decision that branches would not get any more money till April 2018 and if so why? Motion 121 in 2016 and Motion 103 in 2017 reaffirming M121 how was this squared with those conference decisions? The motion passed last year supported branches right to further funding providing activity-based budgets had been agreed in conjunction with the Regional organiser. There was a lack of certainty for branches. It was stated that it is understood we were compliant with what was passed at last years conference. The Director of Finance stated it might not be the case we would have a £1 million surplus as was previously thought, expenditure was coming through and maybe for the first time we would be in a deficit position. Another NEC member said to have £1 million reserves was not a bad position.
General Secretary report – Dave Prentis, General Secretary referred to the Birmingham home care workers dispute – a delegation had attended women’s conference. The national union would be there for them. Dave intended to visit a future picket line. A message of support was sent to them from the NEC. Dave had visited a number of branches in the North West including Halton, Liverpool and Cheshire West. And had given a reading at the Holocaust memorial day event in Liverpool. Some branches were now dealing with 200 employers whereas previously they had dealt with a much smaller number. Black members conference had taken place with 650 delegates the largest union black members conference in Europe. Black history of the last 30 years had been discussed and the harsh climate after the Brexit vote. We were continuing to work with Show racism the red card and Stand up to racism (SUTR). Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary would speak on behalf of the union at the SUTR anti-racism demo on 17th March 2018 and at an event concerning Enoch Powells notorious 1968 ‘Rivers of blood’ speech on 20th April 2018. There would be a major demo on 30th June 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS. This would be a major event for the union. Also there was the TUC national demo on 12th May 2018. The TUC demo was about a jobs agenda. (A new deal for working people). The union would have our own logo directly to promote our campaign for public services. The TUC had asked UNISON for 35,000 members. The North West Region had committed 5,000 members. We should be ambitious and we will be organising to say Austerity and the pay freeze must end. There was a memorial event to commemorate the life of Rodney Bickerstaffe in April at the Westminster central hall which could hold 1500. Branches were asked to bring banners for display in the hall. It was reported Northampton county council (Tory) had run out of money. There were fears this could happen elsewhere. If Donald Trump set foot in the UK UNISON would lead the demos at the airport and in the cities. Hopefully he would be too frightened to come. UCU Pensions dispute – we had sent a message of support. Roger McKenzie, AGS spoke about the damage Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of blood’ speech had done. There had been physical assaults on black people in the streets as a result. The idea behind the proposed plaque to Powell in Wolverhampton was about normalising racism. What we should be celebrating instead was defeating his racist views in the intervening years.
Organising update – Private sector membership had increased there were losses in Local Government, Health was steady. There was no net loss during 2017. Young members was a growth area – we needed to get them active in the union. 150,000 new members had been recruited over the year. The idea of a UNISON passport was raised as a way of keeping members as they moved between employers, so they didn’t have to sign again – this would be facilitated by digital means. John Jones from the North West and Water, Environment and Transport service group stated that this had been discussed a number of years earlier after being raised by a branch in his service group so the prep work should already have been done.
Service Group update – there was an update on Carillion and Capita. The top priority for the union was to get Contracts taken back in house and to protect services and terms and conditions. The question was being raised by the union: Is the private sector the right place for critical public sector works? The TUC had set up a group involving different unions to campaign for ‘insourcing’ (i.e. for Contracts to be brought back in house) that included Frances O’Grady. Health – pay negotiations were ongoing. It was hoped public sympathy generated over the winter months for NHS staff would help. The funding crisis was not just a winter issue but affected every single bit of the NHS. Local Government – Northamptonshire County council the situation there had occurred as a result of poor decisions and policy making. 2 years ago, the Tory council had decided to outsource all staff and services. Mismanagement had led to Finances being out of control. By 2020 in Local government generally there would have been a 75% cut to budgets. Sajid Javid had given £150 million to social care but this was nowhere near enough to that needed to solve the social care crisis. On Local government pay Andrea Egan from the North West referred to the decision to recommend rejection of the pay offer and that she was proud of the North West and the work that had been done with the Region sharing resources, materials and best practice out to branches. One or two NEC members from other Regions had a more pessimistic view about us delivering Industrial action over pay. Christine McAnea, AGS praised the North West for its social care organising campaign. Also discussions had taken place with UCU (college union) and PCS (Civil service union) about how to get good turnouts in Industrial action ballots.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council 18th October 2017

The President asked NEC members to introduce themselves when they spoke (the meeting took place over 2 floors the 9th and the 1st) as most members could not see who was speaking in the other room. A number of us sit in solidarity on the 1st floor with an NEC member who has access issues (a hidden disability). We participate via a video link, which limits visibility. NEC subcommittee allocations had been reviewed by the Presidential team since the July meeting – An NEC member asked were they proportional? The President replied that when the new NEC handbook was out committee allocations would be listed. The President referred to the sad news of the death of Rodney Bickerstaffe, former General Secretary. Condolences would be sent to his family. Dave Prentis, General Secretary spoke and said Rodney had been a close friend. Rodney’s proudest achievement was the statutory minimum wage. After his retirement he continued campaigning with the National Pensioners convention. Rodney had a deep sense of social justice and was a giant of the union movement. He would have said don’t mourn – organise. Dave Prentis also referred to the sad news of the passing of Mike Jeram, former national secretary. Condolences would be sent to Mike’s family.

Organising update – There had been a net loss of 10,000 members YTD (Year to Date). August was always a slow month for recruitment. The number of young members continues to grow. Density in Health was steady we were continuing to lose members in Local Government to outsourcing. One of the Assistant General Secretaries was optimistic we would be in growth by the end of the year. We needed to be visible in workplaces otherwise people would not join us and stay. Paul Holmes, NEC member stated the young people joining in his branch were in the private care sector on minimum wage shifts not the council. The average age of a council worker in his authority was 52 and a half. There had been a drop in the numbers of members on £25K to £45K but an increase in those £14K to £18K. Paul asked that with regard to recruitment figures could we know how many were in each subs band to see the general state of where we were. Terms and conditions of the members were a resource of the union not just money and buildings. Steve North, NEC member from the North West referred to the social care campaign in the North West where we had organised and there had been good results. There was a question of where resources sit. Did the cost of the branch recruiting a member of staff to help with the campaign mean we had to cut back in other ways? Salford branch had recruited their own organiser. Should the running costs be met by the Region or nationally?

Service group update – One of the Assistant General Secretaries spoke on the Pay up Now campaign. There had been Regional and branch activities, a demo at the Tory conference on 1st October 2017 and Dave Prentis, General Secretary had spoken at the rally in Parliament square the previous day. We were aiming for pay increases that were properly funded not at the expense of jobs or services and for all public service workers. Political lobbying had taken place particularly of those Tory MPs with a small majority. On 28th September 2017 an extended SGLC (Service Group Liaison committee) had taken place including activists from the Regions and Regional pay leads. There was the budget on 22nd November 2017. The SGLC would meet again after this and consider reports including on readiness of members to take Industrial Action. A lengthy debate then took place. A number of NEC members noted that PCS (Civil service union) were running consultative or indicative ballots to build visibility of the pay campaign, identify any weak areas where work needed doing - we could do similar ourselves and use a mixture of methods such as gate meetings and using modern technology. An NEC member stated that no member needed to be convinced that they deserved a pay rise what was needed was a lead, a strategy, co-ordinating with other Service Groups and with other public sector Trade Unions. 30th November 2011 (Pensions strike day) had been a great day and people took confidence from it. Another NEC member spoke of how the public mood had changed and people were saying enough is enough. Steve North, NW NEC member stated that an indicative ballot was a balanced, proportionate suggestion he was not saying there should be industrial action tomorrow. A proposal was put forward by Steve ‘to encourage Service Groups to put in place indicative ballots if appropriate and consider joint timescales’ that it was proposed the NEC vote on. Another NEC member said that 140,000 members had signed the online campaign petition we needed to have 500,000 sign it before we considered industrial action.  An NEC member said that the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) proclaiming a victory over the pay cap because of a comment by Jeremy Hunt could come back to bite them and that indicative ballots could build up a mood. The role of this body was to give guidance.

The Assistant General Secretary who had started the update said we were not in dispute anywhere at the moment, the decision about having ballots would be a decision of Service Groups but that would not stop consultative ballots.

The national secretary for Local Government said the Local Government claim had been lodged early in May 2017. Now the employers were waiting for the autumn statement. We anticipated an offer would be made in mid-December. The increase in the Real living wage and national living wage had led to a compression of the pay spine at the bottom. Alongside the pay claim there would be a review of the pay spine. There was a mood amongst employers that 1% was not cutting the mustard. We were lobbying councillors – all 3 unions involved had asked branches to put motions to councils. In some Regions every branch had met the local council leader. If we were expecting an offer in mid-December it would be crazy to have a consultative ballot now in Local Government. Some Local authorities were offering market supplements on pay in a haphazard way that had the potential to undermine Equal Pay.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary said members were getting angry because of our campaign and people understood the pay that had been lost. We had to take on the Government in a political and industrial campaign. Only 7 Tory MPs needed to change their minds and we had scrapped the cap. The time would come for serious industrial action. We needed to get members to believe it is as important to get a pay rise as it is to keep their job. Dave said he chaired the Service Group Liaison committee of the TUC and the aim was co-ordinated action across the union and public services in 2018. We should say to SGE’s (Service Group Executives) - ‘consider the use of consultative ballots when they deem the time is right’. If we were to move to a consultative ballot and the work had not been done where would the co-ordination be if Health voted for and Local Government against? A consultative ballot if used wrongly could stop UNISON co-ordinating and with other unions.

Some NEC members thought we should not have a vote on this at all as it was not the remit of the NEC.

It was proposed that Steve North and the Assistant General Secretary who had opened on the Service Group update come up with a form of words in the lunch break that the NEC could vote on.

On resumption the proposal put to the NEC was ‘We encourage Service Groups to consider instigating consultative ballots in order to identify strengths and weaknesses and involve members in our ongoing pay campaign’. This was agreed by the NEC.

Karen Reissmann, North West NEC member asked when an Industrial Action committee would be convened? The President stated that we would look for a date when we were all down in London again (the next full NEC meeting date).

General Secretaries report – Dave Prentis reported on a number of disputes. Glasgow janitors had won a 6% payrise – the dispute had gone on for 20 months. Salford branch had won almost 11% pay increase for social care workers. Durham had accepted the latest pay offer with 62% in favour on a greater than 50% turnout. In Derby the agreement reached there after the Teaching assistants dispute was beginning to unravel. Wigan council workers had voted for strike action in August. Action had been cancelled after agreement had been reached. The NEC agreed UNISON would be part of the campaign against the Government’s Universal Credit roll out. Dave referred to recent legal victories on Employment Tribunal fees which was a tremendous decision and also the same week there was a Court of Appeal decision which means employers will be obliged to consult with trade unions around any workplace issues that could affect employees. I raised a point about letting members know about the Stand up to Racism national conference in London that was taking place the following week. Dave said Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary was speaking on behalf of the union on this and a communication would go out to members encouraging support and attendance. Lancashire County branch facility time had been withdrawn – the NEC sent a message of support and Dave Prentis had been in touch with the branch. Karen Reissmann, NEC member raised a point of accuracy on the minutes of the previous NEC meeting. It had not been recorded there had been a vote on whether to move business on or not when the issue of accessibility of NEC meetings was being discussed (there had been a call for the provision of an alternative single room on the ground floor as a reasonable adjustment – where the NEC has met on at least one occasion in the past). It was agreed the minutes would be changed to reflect this. Karen also asked that in future could we add together publicly the numbers voting one way or the other in both rooms the NEC meeting is split over.