An NEC member asked the question under the Finance report was their adequate budget provision for the election of General Secretary in 2015 and he was assured there was.We heard from the General Secretary that there had been an 87% vote amongst UNISON members to keep the political fund (imposed on us by Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation that has survived since the 1980’s) after the recent ballot. Police and Justice service group UNISON members had voted 60% YES to Industrial Action in their pay dispute. Best Wishes were sent to police staff in their dispute. It was emphasised there would continue to be real difficulties for Public services if the coalition got back in in May.
This may include the ending of ‘check off’ (union subs being automatically deducted from pay). This was already being done in the civil service. Whichever political party anyone was in the fight was to get the Tories out.The union would be supporting a project to help tackle Ebola in West Africa. The NEC agreed to donate £50,000 from the union's international development fund for each of the next two years and agreed to ask branches if they want to contribute. The NEC was shown a moving video commemorating and naming the 325 health workers in the four countries affected who have died in responding to Ebola.
I asked the General Secretary, Dave Prentis was there any update on the campaign against TTIP the ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ the proposed EU – US Trade deal.If TTIP went ahead there would be a major effect on the provision of public services and services may not be able to be brought in if privatised even if political parties could be persuaded to renationalise. There would be kangaroo courts involving commercial lawyers from multinational companies. The French based multinational company Veolia, are suing the Egyptian government for increasing the national minimum wage – claiming this will “hurt” its investment. There was a growing and massive wave of opposition to these Trade talks. We needed to start questioning MPs and put pressure on them so the Trade talks moved to the top of the agenda. Branches were encouraged to get involved in local coalitions against TTIP.
General election planning – this would be the most critical election any of us had fought. There was a line of attacks from the Tories already in place. However the election outcome was probably also the most unpredictable for a long time with political engagement in the country the lowest in the last century. Clear guidance was requested of the centre in terms of what branches could and couldn’t do given the provisions of the lobbying act. The emphasis should be on encouraging branches to engage in political campaigning through the Affiliated Political Fund and General Political Fund. We would concentrate on 60 seats where the number of UNISON members exceeds the majority of the incumbent. It was also emphasised rightly that talking to members about the key issues is free.Recruitment and Organising campaign – This was the second best year for recruitment figures since the union came into being although the overall picture is still difficult due to government austerity.
On the Legal update it was reported by the Legal officer that there had been a shocking drop of 91% in sex discrimination claims as a result of the coalition’s employment tribunal fees and the requirement to charge these fees up front. Women and low paid workers have been the worst affected.Finally a message of support was sent to Barnet UNISON, in dispute over the North London councils’s attack on terms and conditions.