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. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Election of UNISON Presidential team 23/06/17

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

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