Sunday, 14 April 2019

Personal report of UNISON National Executive Council 3rd April 2019


The main business of this meeting was conference business, considering recommendations on motions and proposed rule amendments from the NEC sub committees and agreeing a provisional policy position from the NEC. The vast majority of the 131 motions accepted onto the preliminary agenda - the NEC position was Support (S).

Motions where the position is other than Support (S):

Motion 3 – Protection and membership for Casualised workers – Support and amend (S) and (A). Proposes to recruit casualised workers and to develop strategy on why casualization matters. To check eligibility for membership.

Motion 7 Time for Change – a review of how UNISON is structured and funded. Remit. (R) Similar to ‘Composite A’ which was rejected by Conference last year.

Motion 17 Suicide awareness training for stewards (S) and (A) The amendment is intended to ensure that suicide awareness is incorporated into a broad package of Mental Health awareness training to help stewards signpost members to find help appropriately.

Motion 24 – Menopause. (S) and (A) Recognising also the menopause can affect younger women.

Motion 34 – CCTV screening of staff in Private houses. (S) and (A). Amendment as motion refers to GDPR but MPs could only review ‘UK Data protection legislation’.

Motion 36 – Campaign to change HMRC Mileage rates (S) and (A). include reference to Green travel plans and investigate whether doubts about HMRC methods for calculating mileage rates offer a strong basis to run a campaign to highlight the injustice of this situation to the HMRC.

Motion 51 – Intergenerational commission report. (S) and (A) The parts of the motion on removing zero hours contracts etc. were fine. Motion calls for retired and young UNISON members to work together to highlight the truth behind the problems facing younger workers and provide alternative proposals which do not divide the generations.

Motion 56, 57 Tories out! General election now. Defer (D) to be discussed with political committees.

Motion 59 Democracy Defer (D). Proposes change to political funds. Political committees should have input.

Motion 61 Free our unions – repeal the anti-union laws. Support with qualifications (S) with (Q). Qualification – consider tactical considerations how demands sit in relation to the Institute of Employment Rights labour law manifesto. Need to work with TUC, STUC, WTUC and ICTU.

Motion 63 – Democratic socialism – defer to the political committee.

Motion 66 – Blood donation campaign (S) and (A) Issue with language. BAME changed to Black.

Motion 75 – The Fire service after Grenfell. – (S) and (A). Amendment to incorporate Fire Brigades Union (FBU) policy.

Motion 76 – PFI. (S) And (A). Amendment to reflect commitments made by Labour since last year’s conference.

Motion 79 – Nationalise the Big Drug Companies – Oppose and amend. (O) and (A). Not a priority for Labour to nationalise, expensive. Investigate public intervention in the pharmaceutical industry to bring down costs.

Motion 83 – Venezuela – Defeat attempted Capitalist coup. (O) Oppose. Confused motion with contentious elements. NEC has agreed a statement opposing external intervention in Venezuela and calling for a peaceful, domestic solution to the problems the country faces.

Motion 84 – Cuba 60 (S) and (A) include Welsh TUC.

Motion 86 – (S) and (A) Solidarity with the uprising for democratic change in Sudan. Change El Bashir to Al Bashir.

Motion 89 – (S) and (A) Solidarity with Rojava – Change ISIS to Daesh.  

Motion 90 – Freedom for Ocalan – (S) and (A)

Motion 91 – Palestine – (S) and (A) Notes Israel’s regime of apartheid and colonialism. Supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).

Motion 92 – Palestine – (S) and (A) very similar to above.

Motion 93, 94 – Palestine (S) and (A) Calls for end to arms trade with Israel, encourage support for Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Motion 95 - Palestine (S) and (A).

Motion 100 – (D) and (A) defer for discussion with Disabled members – Make 2021 the year of disabled workers.

Motion 108 – Decriminalisation for Safety – Oppose. Existing UNISON/NDC policy is adopt the ‘Nordic model’. Policy subcommittee of NEC discussed and asks to oppose.

Motion 115 – UNISON to become much more proactive in reducing it’s Carbon Emissions. (S) and (A). e.g. Use Video conferencing more.

Motion 117 – Abolish Trust/Foundation status in the NHS. Seek withdrawal. In line with policy but removing trust status could be counterproductive.

Motion 118 – Abolish NHS car parking charges (S) – An NEC member stated we needed to take a holistic view as in his area 37% had no access to a car. We should have free public transport from the city centre and not have giant car parks at hospitals.

Motion 123 (S) and (A) – Universal Credit in work conditionality. (A) seeks to make the case for ending in work conditionality.

Motion 125 (S) and (A) – Universal Credit/PIP assessments – (A) Takes the policy proposals further.

Motion 127 (S) and (A) – Reduction in Branch Funding. Review processes and systems.

Motion 129 (S) and (A) – On line joiners. (A) - Ensure that the ability to join online and pay by DOCAS, is rolled out to the largest 500 employers where there is a DOCAS agreement.

Motion 131 Working women and access to a refuge. Defer (D).

Rule Amendments – Support except:

5. Rule C - Arrears of subscriptions - Oppose – Change 3 months to 4 weeks. Not an issue before. A lot of members get paid monthly how would this physically work?

6. Rule D - The Right to attend and speak – Oppose – Conflict with Rule D 1.8.1 also 7. And 8. Rule D Standing orders committee. – Oppose.

12., 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 – all Oppose. There was some debate on this at the NEC on the proposed rule change from annual elections for Branch officer positions to biennial. I spoke to say I opposed these Rule changes as the issue was about democratic accountability. If members were unhappy with Branch officers it could mean 18 months or more to remove them through elections if they were biennial. Members should be able to assess their branch leadership every year. Another NEC member said he would be happy to have NEC elections every year if the argument is put shouldn’t the same rule apply to NEC Elections.

A proposal was put to leave it to conference to decide rather than the NEC taking a position. The vote was taken and the result was 41 to oppose these proposed rule changes and 8 to leave it to conference to decide.

22, 23 Rule I Disciplinary action – Proposal to change the longest period a member can be barred from office to change from 3 years to 2 years. NEC position – Oppose.

Draft NEC Annual report – in response to this John Jones from Water, Environment and Transport service (WET) group and the North West said the report should reference the first strike in the Water Industry since 1992. It was stated that any proposed changes to the report would have to be signed off by the Presidential team. 

In addition, the NEC voted to suggest 12 motions and six rule amendments to be prioritised for debate at conference.

The motions are:

  •  motion 77 – Progressive taxes to end austerity;
  •  motion 22 – Smash the gender pay gap;
  •   motion 1 – Developing organising resources in branches and regions;
  •   motion 47 – Austerity and public service;
  •   motion 126 – Resourcing our branches – a UNISON priority;
  •   motion 80 – Curbing corporate power;
  •   motion 121 – Stopping social insecurity;
  •   motion 70 – Tackling the crisis in social care;
  •   motion 9 – Addressing the skills crisis through UNISON learning;
  •   motion 102 – The trade union response to fascism – No Pasaran;
  •   motion 81 – Brazil;
  •   motion 111 – Energy: Climate change – a just transition and jobs for a low carbon economy.

The rule changes the NEC wants to prioritise are:
  • rule amendment 1 – Schedule B: benefits of members in education;
  • rule amendment 4 – Rule C: obligations of membership;
  • rule amendment 19 – Rule G: branch meetings;
  • rule amendment 20 – Rule G: branch officers;
  • rule amendment 21 ­– Rule G: the branch secretary;
  • rule amendment 2 – Rule B: union democracy.
NEC Conference plan – National Delegate Conference was 18th – 21st June 2019 in Liverpool. There was an international guest speaker from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Plus one further speaker under consideration. 
General Secretary’s report - Dave Prentis – Brexit – we were 9 days from leaving with no deal. The richest people would not feel the effect if the UK left on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms. Public services would suffer. We did not want to fall into recession or to impinge on the Good Friday agreement. A customs union with access to the single market would be the safest way on jobs and services with no hard border in Ireland. We want a General Election if we can get one. There had been a long discussion at the Policy committee (subcommittee) of the NEC. Policy was: 
1. We continue to support the call for a General Election. 
2. We support an extension of Article 50.
3. Preventing a “no deal“ Brexit is an absolute priority for our union to avoid the devastating economic consequences for our members and our public services.
4.  An overriding priority will remain the protection of our members in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.
5. We support the Common Market 2.0 /Norway Plus option.
6. If these options fail and to avoid the devastating consequences of no deal, UNISON, in principle supports a confirmatory public vote on any deal that then emerges. 
An NEC member raised the worry of the far right trying to capitalise on the current situation (which they had done with protests on 29th March). The Government wasn’t governing and austerity was continuing. A repetition of the referendum could see massive divisions again but even worse. People voted leave or remain for both good and bad reasons but a General election could offer a way to unite people out of the impasse.   
The vote was taken to support the above policy which was agreed by 39 votes to 8. I voted in favour. 
Universal Credit – this was having a terrible impact - we needed to step up the fight to have it ended and reviewed. 
Dave Prentis had met with Jeremy Corbyn to talk about Brexit and the issues to be addressed in the next election. 
We were conducting more ballots on industrial action than the rest of the other unions put together. 
A Scottish NEC member referred to a ballot of homecare workers in Dundee – a consultative ballot with a turnout of over 80% with a large majority to take strike action. This had got the Council back round the table. 
Congratulations were given to Hope not Hate for their work in foiling a far-right murder plot against Labour MP Rosie Cooper. 
Recruitment campaign - There was to be a recruitment campaign in May. Aimed at recruitment and growth to build on the ‘Grovember’ campaign.
A working group review of NEC ballots was presented with lessons to be learned aiming to identify good practice with high levels of lay member involvement. North West NEC members reported back on good practice in NW Region with the collective disputes team and Alternative Futures Group and also Lifeways in Salford.  

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Personal report of UNISON National Executive Council 6th December 2018


There were 2 vacancies on the Campaign Fund sub committee of the NEC. There would be a meeting at lunchtime to vote to fill these.

There was a reportback on the ‘Grovember’ recruit campaign. 18,101 members had joined in November, 11,380 leavers gave a net growth of greater than 6,000. 75% joined online taking on average 3 minutes. An NEC member said in his Region members could not join online and pay by DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source). Was this a conscious decision? And when would this be reintroduced? A fuller report on recruitment activities during Grovember would be produced.

Organising update – Working month in, month out ensures a consistent recruitment rate. One of the AGS’s (Assistant General Secretary’s) said our visibility in the workplace was key.

Service Group pay campaigns – There was a dispute at iFM in Bolton, staff had won implementation of the 3 year NHS pay deal after Industrial Action.

Brexit – UNISON had created it’s own six tests for any Brexit deal based on National Delegate conference decisions including protecting workers rights, protecting public services form any bad economic deal that would also continue public service austerity, keep UK public services out of global trade deals, maintain EU citizen rights, EU freedom of movement and prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, uphold the Good Friday agreement and respect the devolution legislation of the Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The NEC agreed to support an opposition vote against the draft Withdrawal agreement and Political declaration. To prevent a no deal if the deal does not pass through parliament – call for a General election with a political strategy to support it. Table a vote of no confidence in the Government. Reject or amend the Government’s statement of how it will proceed or give parliament itself new powers to take over the negotiations. Call for an extension to Article 50 so that a better deal can be negotiated. Give the NEC discretion to call for a public vote on the deal if none of the above can enable positive changes in the draft withdrawal agreement. (in line with Labour party and TUC conference motions). Campaign against a future EU-UK deal based on a Free Trade agreement option. Campaign for a future EU-UK deal that includes UNISON’s six tests.

Some NEC members raised a point about having a demonstration to force the Tories from office and not let the far right take to the streets with a ‘Brexit betrayal’ narrative.

NEC election procedures for the 2019 election were agreed – although not unanimously. Para 57 of the procedures:

57. 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.

Some NEC members said they struggled with of how a grouping of UNISON members could be an ‘outside organisation’ if members wanted to collectively organise to change the direction of the union they should be able to. Another NEC member said this change could lead people to create mischief if they do not like the outcome of an election and was a hammer to crush a nut. Another NEC member said at the last NEC elections individuals were part of an outside organisation under this definition producing leaflet’s etc. and now didn’t want to admit it. It was about protectionism for one group and not another. There was a lengthy debate – a vote was proposed to move to a vote – this was carried 26 For and 19 Against.

An amendment to delete paragraph 57 (after ‘for the avoidance of doubt’) was lost by 29 votes to 16 with 3 abstaining.

An amendment to delete paragraph 58 was lost by 32 votes to 11 with 3 abstaining.

In Appendix G a new bullet point letter H to allow branches in Regional Supervision to nominate was carried by 41 to 2 with 0 abstentions.

An amendment to delete the whole of Paragraph 57 was lost by 33 to 9 with 3 abstentions.

An amendment to delete the whole of paragraph 58 was lost by 33 to 10 with 3 abstentions.

The final vote was for the whole of the paper with the Appendix G amend – 33 for 7 against with 3 abstentions.

General Secretary report – messages of support were sent to all still taking industrial action. The Camden NSL dispute was referred to, Bolton iFM, Barnsley teaching assistants, Kirklees bin workers, Birmingham care workers. Bradford University had dropped plans for redundancies. Glasgow where 8000 women had got coverage across the world.  

The union’s objectives for 2019 were agreed and also the budget for 2019 and agreed policy on motions not reached at the 2018 national delegate conference.

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.