Saturday, 10 December 2016

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 October 2016

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

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

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Personal report of the Development and Organisation (D&O) subcommittee of the UNISON NEC 25th May 2016

A report was received from the Organisation and Membership sub committee of D&O looking at issues of:
  1. Shopfront resource centres, the experience of these and their development.
  2. How we should plan to resource branches.
  3. Activist development – there would be more emphasis on this looking at the challenges we face.
2 new members of staff had been appointed to look at activist development and employed to support the Strategic Organising Unit. One of the members of staff will be supporting branches in the North of England and has been previously part of the Four Seasons Project.
There was acknowledgement that the Joint Branch assessments are generally a paper exercise. The proposal is to have a more dynamic online system, which can be accessed by organisers.
Recruitment and Organising – The Head of Strategic Organising stated that the number of new members we have recruited has increased over the last 3 years. Each of the last 3 years has seen us however lose more members than recruit but the number lost has been decreasing each year for the last 3 years. 30% of all new joiners are people who work outside the public sector. The private and voluntary sector membership is increasing (these could be people who TUPE transfer from the public sector - not necessarily new people). There was an associated issue of fragmentation. There was also a challenge to recruit more activists in these sectors.

15% of the total membership is now outside the public sector. The trend continues of recruiting more lower paid members and losing higher paid members.
The union has been tracking lapsed members over the last 2 years with some evidence that a phone call helps retain members.

The average time a member is in membership who pays by DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) is 7 years compared to 5 years by DD (Direct Debit). A question was asked was this more to do with the profile of the employer? And could we have a breakdown of differential turnover by sector – how was this related to areas where there are less activists? It was agreed there would be more analysis on this.
The Eastern Region are piloting a single branch to service members in the private sector where there is little scope to organise.

Learning and Organising report (Learning and Organising services – LAOS)
In 2015 9,300 activists attended UNISON training, 61% of them women. The figures for the North West are:

Reps training  Health & Safety Union Learning
2014    2015      2014    2015      2014     2015

314      313         22         35          12          8

The number attending ERA re-certification training in the North West was 215 for 2015, the highest number across all Regions. The number of stewards recruited in 2015 who have been trained to date is up from 15% in 2014 to 33% in 2015.
John Jones from the North West commented that in places like Cumbria membership was spread out and joint training had been organised between branches not necessarily through the Region and this had been found to be a good fit. It was also remarked that Health and Safety reps once they became H+S reps - they stayed as such. Members who become reps sometimes end up going up the managerial chain. This did not apply to the same extent to Health and Safety reps. With regard to Union Learning reps (ULR’s) – UNISON sometimes struggles to get ULR’s - again we should not beat ourselves up – UNISON members were not in manual employment to the same extent as GMB or UNITE and had often already got qualifications.

Bernie Gallagher from the North West stated that it was important that on Rep 1 courses for members the first point of contact was with a good tutor.
Future resourcing and delivery of activists education was discussed in the context of reduction in funding. From August 2016 no trade union education will be fully funded by the Further education formula for England. The skills funding agency will continue to part fund TUC Education where it complies with the range of requirements for public funding e.g. accreditation and specific sector skills requirements. The TUC estimate the gap to be £6.5 million for 2016-17. The TUC has set aside a £1.4 million fund to assist the transition period.

John Jones asked for a small Working Party to be set up to review activists training - with the re-election of the Tories the position was likely to worsen. This was not supported.
WARMS/RMS (Web access replacement membership system)
A compromise had taken place over the Government’s proposed detrimental changes affecting DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source). Amendments to the Trade Union bill (now Act) mean a DOCAS service can remain if UNISON pays the Operational cost for this service and members have a choice to pay their subscriptions. Prior to this pilot exercises had been undertaken in some branches to get branches ‘switch ready’ (from DOCAS to Direct Debit subs collection) – these were described as having been useful. An end of the month Direct Debit collection cycle had been adopted. Some overdue maintenance on WARMS would be taking place over the quieter summer period. An NEC member acknowledged the enormous work that had gone into the ‘DD ready’ campaign – we had not been wrong to be ready for the worst. I asked should we be reconsidering the messages we were sending out to branches though, after the Government made concessions – we didn’t want to put members automatically on Direct Debit if this was not necessary as there were organising benefits associated with DOCAS. In reply it was stated that for the larger employers where the employer has signed up to DOCAS, the details of members can now automatically be sent to the employer’s payroll department by WARMS for the member to pay by DOCAS. Another NEC member was not in favour of us proactively converting members back to DOCAS. It was asked by an NEC member could there be a date every week of the month to pay by Direct Debit.

There was a presentation on a mobile campaign tool - this is a simple online facility where we could capture contact with individual members. Personal details and Contact information could be updated. If an organiser, for example,  had visited a group of members in a workplace this could be written away to RMS in real time. Version 1 was about to be released and there were plans for enhancements.
Conference business – Provisional policy on motions, amendments to motions and rule amendments for National Delegate Conference relevant to D&O was discussed.

1. An organising response to the Trade Union bill – support with qualifications (SWQ) – some parts of this had been written before the bill became law.  1.1 SWQ 1.2 support.
5.1 from the National Young members forum – support, 6.1 support, 9.1 support (Branch resource centres) 13.1 support, 14.1 support,15 Defer, 16.1 support 125 Branch Directory – support.

Draft Composite A – the amendment was accepted.
Rules – 4. Structure of the union at national level – deferred for Consultation. 9. From Kirklees – deferred for Consultation with Service Groups and Regions.

Branches under Regional supervision – Seven branches were under regional supervision – none in the North West. It was agreed that if an Annual General meeting (AGM) is not to be held and a branch is in Regional Supervision then an explanation of why there is not to be an AGM should be provided in the report.  
Attendance from D&O committee at TUC Conference 2016 – 3 places were available, 2 of whom must be a woman. The Chair of D&O goes as a member of TUC General Council. The Vice Chair goes automatically. 4 names were put forward. John Jones and Bernie Gallagher from the North West put their names forward. I voted for Bernie and John.

The result was John Jones – 7 votes, Andrew Anderson – 11 votes, Bernie Gallagher – 8 votes, Irene Stacey – 11 votes.
So Irene Stacey, Margaret McKee and Andrew Anderson attend.

Hononary Life Membership – Honorary Life membership was awarded to William Stanley Drinkwater form the North West Ambulance Service, who is retiring after 41 years service.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Back Corbyn!

In the wake of the secret vote of no confidence by MPs, organised in haste against Jeremy Corbyn, he has shown tremendous character in withstanding the pressure and also frankly bullying behaviour of a number of MPs in the Westminster bubble (with the honourable exception of the 40 or so MPs who have resisted this including those that have stepped up to the plate and become shadow cabinet members – the true heros and heroines of the movement).

With the biggest political crisis in Britain since the Second World War unfolding, it would have been hoped most Labour MPs would be reassuring party members, supporters and the wider community about their intention to resist fresh austerity from the Brexit Tories and also their intention to oppose increased racism in the wake of the EU leave vote. Instead we have seen undemocratic plotting. Cameron, Murdoch and the political establishment are joining in with the disloyal MPs calling on Corbyn to resign.

Is this about electability? Does anyone seriously believe a right wing candidate who supported the Iraq war, voted against the enquiry into it (The Chilcot report will be revealed next week – so the timing of the coup is interesting), supports bombing Syria and abstains on cuts to welfare votes will appeal. The same goes for the EU referendum where Corbyn's position was closer to a lot of the unions - stay in but the EU needs reform (an honest position).  
On the bullying issue many of us who are union reps will know this can be a serious issue in workplaces. It is therefore with dismay we observe the behaviour of some in the Parliamentary Labour Party who should know better (one would hope) and ought to appreciate they should be setting a better example to society at large.
What the establishment fear is a weakened Tory party still fighting over Europe with a small base in wider society up against a mass membership Labour Party of up to half a million members (if the current rate of growth continues) and led by socialists who will oppose scapegoating of refugees and migrants and oppose austerity and war. In the battles ahead against austerity are we better off with Corbyn as leader or a Blairite or soft left leader susceptible to Blairite pressure – I know which I prefer and the rallies and support now taking place for Jeremy Corbyn across the country now show that is understood by millions of working class people. Thus the whole of the Trade Union and labour movement must rally to defend Corbyn thus offering a way forward in the crisis.  
Join Labour here:

Monday, 30 May 2016

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council 13th April 2016

At the start of the meeting the President referred to a number of queries concerning the ERS (Electoral Reform Services) report in relation to the General Secretary election the result of which had been declared in December 2015. The independent scrutineer had upheld a number of complaints regarding breaches of election procedures but it was stated the issue of whether the breaches influenced the election result was considered carefully but ERS concluded there was ‘minimal evidence the breaches influenced voting intentions of members and the overall ballot result’.

In the light of an ongoing investigation by the Certification officer (CO) as a result of complaints received by the CO there was to be no further debate at this time – this it was stated was standard practice in the light of the possibility of actual or contemplated litigation. The CO had written to the union with complaints and they were being dealt with by the unions legal department. There were areas of work to be taken up by the Development and Organisation (D&O) subcommittee of the NEC in future on i) Participation levels in the election and ii) Election procedures.
Also referred to by the President was a report commissioned by one of the Assistant General Secretary’s and conducted by an independent person into Access issues at NEC meetings. The report stated current arrangements were ‘exemplary’ subject to a couple of suggested improvements to be put in place.
A number of colleagues were welcomed back after ill health and obituaries were also read out with a minute’s silence observed.
Provisional policy on motions and proposed NEC amendments to motions was discussed. The great majority of motions (that make it onto the agenda and are not ruled out of order for various reasons) are supported by the NEC and seen as uncontentious. There was some discussion on Motion 1 The Trade union bill – policy was to defer – as we didn’t know where the Tory legislation was going on this (in particular on DOCAS - Deduction of contributions at source or check off) – the position could be changed at a later date depending on this. The first group of motions were relevant to D&O subcommittee that had met the previous day – the position was unchanged on these see –
Motions that were relevant to Policy committee were considered – again the great majority were supported by the NEC. Motion 27 Pension Funds: Divestment from fossil fuel extraction - policy was to support as amended. The motion, it was stated, was in accord with Environmental policy but there were also important issues that needed to be considered like the Governance of funds and the Government’s intentions to amalgamate Pension funds.  29 Keep it local, Keep it public - policy was to support with qualifications. 30 Cancel PFI contracts - there was an NEC amendment - policy was support as amended after some debate at the meeting. The debate centred around us not wanting to compensate the rich companies involved in PFI contracts the counter argument was without compensation our Pension funds could take a hit.  32 The threat to Local democracy – support with qualifications. 34 The Housing crisis – support and amend. 37,38 (similar motions) Extending the Right to buy to Housing associations and ‘Pay to stay’ - support and amend. 40 and 41 Kill the Housing bill and Social Care – a system in danger of collapse - support and amend. 44 Open libraries - support and amend. 42,45 Crisis in social care and Public ownership of Energy utilities - support with qualifications. 47 Attacks on democracy – support and amend. The amendment referred to giving Regions autonomy to deal with developments such as the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in their own areas.  67 Universal basic income – support with qualifications. 68 Workers under attack – support with qualifications. 69 Democratic socialism – defer – A question was raised on this – if we have concerns on this why don’t we move an amendment. We then moved to the International motions 79 and 80 Support Peace negotiations in Turkey - were support and amend – calling on the Turkish government to respect human rights and the release all political prisoners to enable them to take part in peace negotiations. 81 Saudi Arabia – support and amend. The amendment broadens out the motion. 89 and 90. Chibok girls - a minor amendment to replace wording of ‘International Crimes commission’ with ‘International Criminal court’.  94 to 98 on the EU referendum – defer. (There was a debate on this later in the meeting). 102 – The refugee crisis: The media’s reporting and it’s negative impact. Support and amend. The GPF (General Political Fund) was producing national materials for use by branches. 111 – The impact of social care cuts on NHS waiting and response times - Support and amend. 112 – Support the NHS bill to reinstate a publicly funded, publicly provided and accountable NHS. – support with qualifications. 120 Prostate cancer testing – support and amend. Then the Finance motions were discussed – 122, 123 and 124 – The future of branch funding - defer. There was to be a discussion with the branches submitting the motions before policy was recommended.
125 (D&O) Branch directory – defer. 126. Recognising continued long membership of the union (long service badges) – support.
NEC policy on rule amendments was discussed. These are relevant to D&O (see previous blog post).
Priorities – the NEC’s 12 priority motions were 1. Trade Union bill. 2.Trade Union facilities 3. Living standards and Pay justice. 4. Fairer taxation. 5. Privatisation of DFID. 6. Welfare and Work. 7. Health and Safety. 8. Strengthening our union. 9. TTIP. 10. Welfare and work 11. Stop outsourcing 12. Exploitation in supply chains.
The 6 priority rule amendments – 4,13 and 16 and 2,3 and 7
If there is a grouped debate on the Private contractor’s national forum rule amendments 2,3,7,8 and 14 would all be priorities. 
Draft NEC report – The report aimed to capture NEC activities between conferences. There was some comment from an NEC member that the tone of the report suggested ‘business as usual’ rather than reflecting that Local Government, in particular, was taking a hammering under Government austerity. It was not business as usual. It was also asked could there be more reference to the Equalities conferences which had been very well attended.
Conference Plan – guest speakers had not been confirmed yet. John Jones from the North West and WET service group asked if North West Regional Health and Safety committee were having a stall in the UNIZONE – it was confirmed this was the case.
There was then the debate on the EU referendum – this was lengthy, conducted in a respectful spirit with some very good points made on both sides of the argument. The union had conducted a consultation with members and branches and members wanted us to show leadership on this issue. The agenda on the referendum had been hijacked by big business and those with a racist agenda. 70% of members wanted us to take a position and 95% of those branches who wanted us to make a recommendation wanted the position be that the UK should stay in the EU. This was the recommendation to the full NEC from the Policy subcommittee of the NEC.
Some of the points made for remain were that the EU was far from perfect but that we should campaign for workers’ rights in a social Europe. It was right that we should show leadership and remain was the lesser evil and sometimes the lesser evil was the best we could get. It was obvious that if the vote was to leave this would give a boost to the most reactionary forces. It would be Nigel Farage who would be crowing on TV the next day if the vote was to leave. There was legal opinion from the TUC on how a reactionary government could dismantle employment rights legislation on exit from the EU.  The left’s position in the 1980’s was correct in terms of not wanting to be part of the ‘common market’ but we are not now in the 1980’s but part of a global economy. If we think we are delivering a blow to David Cameron on leaving the EU the reality is we would be delivering a blow to ourselves and our members. Another NEC member said that a remain position does not mean we accept TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
Those speaking for leave the EU said there was no democracy in the Common market you could not reform it it is an austerity club, you cannot oppose TTIP and say we should stay in the EU. What had happened to Greece was about telling Ireland, Spain and Italy this is what will happen to you if you oppose austerity. If there was a leave vote there would be a General election this was why Jeremy Corbyn was facing media attacks. There would be a recession in the next 5 years if we stayed in we would suffer and it would be that worse than in 2008.
There was a summation before the vote was taken - 58,000 members had responded in the consultation; the NEC was entrusted in between national conferences to make a decision. We would put out balanced information to members who were worried about the impact on workers’ rights and public services – so the recommendation was to remain on the basis of much needed reform.
The vote was taken and was overwhelmingly in favour of campaigning to remain to stay in the EU (this included most members of the left caucus of the NEC).
General Secretary’s report – Dave Prentis, General Secretary referred to Rule amendment J on the union’s political fund – this had to be agreed by the NEC, Affiliated Political Fund (APF) and General Political Fund (GPF) and the Certification Officer. The GPF and APF had approved the motion. No procedures that had been in place since 1993 had been broken. Dave pointed out the irony of Donald Trump being against TTIP while Hilary Clinton was in favour of it. The Trade Union bill was the biggest thing for us – we had had major victories in the House of Lords. We needed to persuade the Lords to stay strong on i) Political funds ii) Check off. The 5 year review of political funds is out, only new members have to opt in, not existing members. Re-balloting on Industrial Action is to be extended to 6 or 9 months.  
Organising update - there had been membership increases in February and March but there were health warnings due to continuing Government austerity and its impact on public service jobs.
Service Group pay campaigns – NJC pay – there was an Industrial Action Committee meeting following the NEC meeting to consider whether or not to proceed to a ballot. Business, Community and Environment – the employer at Action for Children had come back to the negotiating table after an 84% vote for action - this wouldn’t have happened had members not shown they were willing to stand up.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Personal report of Development and Organisation sub committee of the UNISON NEC 12th April 2016

The committee considered provisional policy on motions to national conference to take place in Brighton in June and that were relevant to D&O Committee and to recommend policy to the full NEC.
Motion 1 – an organising response to the Trade Union bill – policy was to defer, the rationale being that there was concern that the motion called for an immediate switch from DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at source or 'check off') to Direct Debit in response to the Tories Trade Union bill. The bill was still going through the Commons and Lords and by deferring we gave ourselves time so we would have a better idea of where the legislation was going. Whilst this position was understandable a couple of us felt to be fair to the motion it was actually saying the union should have the necessary resources and materials to enable the switch rather than an immediate switch. Other unions were already doing this. We could review our position right up to the date of the national conference.
The following motions were all supported: 2. Organising for growth in the Community and Voluntary sector 3. Increasing young women’s attendance at National Delegate Conference 4. Supporting our activists who have to deal with stressful situations 5. Bullying and young members 6. Strengthening our union, supporting and developing our members (NEC motion) 7. Supporting stewards during times of austerity 8. Trade Union and FE studies.
9. Supporting shared branch resource centres – the position was to support and amend. The branch funding element was referred to the Finance committee.
10. Code of Good branch practice – seek withdrawal (the motion asked to update the Code of Good branch practice every 2 years and to encourage its access electronically – the Code of Good branch practice is already updated every 2 years and is available on the UNISON website). 11. Electronic use of the national rule book – this was felt to be a useful motion the recommendation however was to have a wider discussion about usage and availability - remit. 12. My union, your union, our union encouraging engagement – support.

13. and 14. Branch self-organised groups – support and amend. 15. Representation of members in FE - TBC. 16 Trade Union facilities (NEC motion) and 126. Recognising continued membership of the union (long service badges for members from 10 to 50 years) – support.
We then considered proposed D&O amendments to motions on 9 – supporting shared branch resource centres, 13 and 14 Branch self-organised groups and 15 . Representation of members in FE.

Proposed policy of D&O on rule amendments – There was a raft of motions again calling for a move from annual to biennial – national delegate conference, service group conferences, election of branch officers and stewards. We opposed this last time after consulting Regional Convenors, Self organised groups etc. the feeling was that opinion had not changed since then. We did not want to weaken the democratic accountability of the union. So rule amendments 1,5,6,11 and 12 were all opposed.
2,3,7,8 10 and 14 were all supported and concerned the establishment of a private contractor’s forum and the right to speak at and attend national conferences. 

4 - from national disabled members committee - defer as wider consultation was to take place before national delegate conference.
9 – A rule change to enable Service Group executive representatives who are also branch delegates to be elected as Chair or Vice Chairperson of the group’s Regional Committee – defer so advice cold be sought on how the various Regions deal with this. One committee member said the situation was ‘a dog’s breakfast’ currently.

13 – Rule J the political fund - to comply with the law the position was to support but this could be changed if the Lords amends on the Trade Union bill get through the Commons.
15 – Schedule A rates of subscription for retired members - referred to the Finance committee.

16 Schedule C elections – support – this change would allow the union to consider alternative voting methods for Service Group Executive elections e.g electronic voting, .
NEC rule amendments for the priorities ballot - these were rule amendments 2,3,7,8,13 and 16.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council Wednesday 17th February 2016

The start of the meeting discussed the delay in the publication of the Returning officer’s report in relation to the General Secretary election – I have already blogged on this:
The early part of this meeting was taken up by considering the NEC’s motions from its strategic committees to this year’s National Delegate Conference which will be held in Brighton.

There are 12 NEC motions to Conference: 1. Trade union facilities, 2. Strengthening our union: Supporting and developing our stewards, 3. Opposing DFID’s privatisation agenda (DFID – UK Government’s Department for International Development), 4. Eradicating exploitation in supply chains, 5. Welfare and Work: Social Security provision for all, 6. Fairer Taxation and the future funding of our public services, 7. Public service workers under pressure, 8. Public Service Campaigning - Stop outsourcing and protect members, 9. Health and safety of public service staff, 10. Living standards, pay justice and the living wage, 11. Building the campaign against European Union Trade and Investment Agreements, 12. Trade Union Bill
There was also an NEC motion and report (fairly lengthy) to Conference on the Branch Resources review. I and a number of other NEC members were not happy that these had been tabled on the day and we therefore had not had time to read this material beforehand which was likely to be controversial at Conference.

Most of the 12 NEC motions were seen as uncontroversial. There was some debate however on the motion on the Trade Union bill and whether there should be an amendment, which was proposed by an NEC member, - ‘including Industrial Action co-ordinated through the TUC if any member union faces sanctions arising from the Trade Union bill.’ – this was to be inserted after the first action point in the motion. After a debate this was lost when put to the vote.  I voted in favour of the amendment.
There was then some discussion on the Branch resources review report and accompanying motion. The motion has since been titled ‘Gateway to the future: Stable and sustainable branch resources’. The report and motion propose ‘activity based budgeting’ to be rolled out to all branches which it was stated has already been piloted with branches covering 30% of the membership, and ‘that the current percentage of subscription income allocated to branch funding, 23.5 %, delivers sufficient funds to cover all branch activities’, ‘the process involves branch committees producing a work plan and a budget which reflects UNISON’s objectives’, and ‘the specific needs for resources are identified as part of the joint branch assessment’.

There is a proposal that ‘those branches that have insufficient funds to support their agreed work plans will in 2016 receive an automatic top-up from the regional pool, providing immediate support to branches most in need.’ ‘All branches will be required to produce annual activity based budgets’, ‘where a branch has agreed a work plan and budget as part of the joint branch assessment process, but does not have the resources to meet the work plan, there will be a provision for the branch budget to be automatically topped up from the Regional pool.’ Also ‘Where a branch wants to fund activities that are not agreed as part of the joint branch assessment as meeting the union’s objectives, there will be an appeal process whereby the budget is referred to a joint regional council body for resolution’. ‘During 2016, in consultation with Regions, the regional pool structure and criteria will be revised to facilitate the automatic funding for branches whose reserves are insufficient to fund their activity-based budget work plan.’  
The discussion on this was returned to later in the meeting (under the Finance item) and we moved to discussion of proposed rule amendments to be discussed at Conference. These included one allowing the NEC to determine that UNISON SGE (Service Group Executive) elections be by either postal ballot and/or electronic ballot i.e. to consider alternative voting methods. This was agreed as were a number of rule amendments arising from a private contractor’s seminar to enshrine the right of private sector members to speak and attend National Delegate Conference and Service Group Conference and to establish a private contractor’s national forum.   

On the Conference plan item - The UNIZONE will run this year from Sunday to Friday and international speakers will include somebody each from Ireland, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the international builders federation with particular emphasis on the football World Cup and a last minute suggestion was welcomed of inviting Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party.

The highlights of the General Secretary’s report included UNISON’s support for the BMA (British Medical Association) in their fight against Junior Doctors having new contracts imposed. The NEC sent them a message of support. It was repeated that there would be an industrial response from the union if the Government tried to make any detrimental changes to unsocial hour’s payments of UNISON members in the NHS. A number of NEC members said we should be asking the TUC to consider a national demonstration to defend the NHS and in support of the Junior Doctors.
There is industrial action taking place in UNISON’s Further Education Sector on 24th February 2016 and again we sent them our good wishes. UNISON continues to oppose student nurses bursaries being removed.

UNISON has launched a joint campaign with mental health charity MIND called Blue Light which deals with mental health issues. The scheme is supported by the ambulance and other emergency services and aims to provide mental health support for emergency services staff and volunteers across England. 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in any year and some of these will be issues at work.  
Dave Prentis, General Secretary reported that this year’s Black Members Conference was the best attended yet with some 750 in attendance. Equally, Women’s Conference attracted about 800.

Dave Prentis referred to the Trade Union bill as the biggest threat to our Trade Union. The bill was going through the Lords. Some changes (in the right direction) had been made re: use of social media in relation to disputes. There were differences between the unions in terms of ballot thresholds. UNISON had argued for workplace balloting. UNITE would accept a 50% threshold if they could have electronic balloting. UNITE has taken a harder line subsequently. The Bishops in the Lords had been sympathetic. One NEC member (from the North West) quipped that hopefully a few thunderbolts as well would be sent from on high in the direction of the Tories. We had to make sure that the end result wasn’t that members lost the protection of their union. The devolved nations have said they won’t countenance such plans as contained in this Bill.
Dave Prentis said we needed to have a debate about an interim rule change to go to conference to protect our political fund. We needed a holding motion to conference on this. If the default was members had to sign up to go into the fund rather than being in unless they opt out and we didn’t take remedial action in terms of a rule change our income would go down within a matter of weeks.

One of the Assistant General Secretaries reported that there should be a 3rd collection date for Direct Debit payment of subscriptions by the end of February 2016. There would be a RMS/WARMS (the UNISON membership system) upgrade over the May bank holiday also including a reporting mechanism on how many had switched from check off. The North West Region had developed a switch ready check list so that before a branch switches all the building blocks would be in place.
One of the national officers reported there was an initiative to support this work – the big UNISON prize draw that would aim to increase the membership data.

Dave Prentis again referred to the unions political fund and that if the change in the Trade Union bill went through we would have to sign up 1 million people to the political fund in 3 months to retain our right and ability to politically campaign. One of the NEC members referred to it being essential that it is agreed as a stopgap (the rule amendment) otherwise the consequence could be we would have new members in the union who did not contribute to the political fund.  
Under the organising report we heard that private sector recruitment was continuing to increase as a proportion of recruitment and that 70% of joiners now join online. Job losses continued, though, with Local Government being particularly hard hit. Concern was rightly expressed about the likely cessation of state funding for Trade Union education in the not too distant future and the union was awaiting a response on the future of Unionlearn.

EU referendum – Whilst the union had established policy in relation to the European Union (EU) itself and the various treaties that had arisen over time e.g. Maastricht, Lisbon etc., we did not have a policy as yet on whether the UK should stay or leave the EU. A consultation would take place with members to consider what position, if any, the union should take on this. Briefing materials and a consultation questionnaire would be sent to branches. There would also be a series of Regional meetings. This would be fed back to the NEC’s policy committee to look at, the policy committee would then make a decision for referral to the NEC meeting in April. The referendum date was believed (subsequently confirmed) to be Thursday 23rd June 2016.  
Finance - The management accounts for the 12 months to the end of December 2015 were approved.

There was then a fairly lengthy debate and discussion of the Branch resources review motion and report referred to earlier with concerns and reservations expressed from North West NEC members that branches were struggling with outsourcing/privatisation etc. but with no extra funding. There was not an automatic top up proposed as had been suggested but a process where branches had to apply and this would be seen as bureaucratic. Branches would challenge the statement in the motion that branch retention at 23.5% was sufficient to cover all branch activities. Since the funding formula was introduced there had been many changes in the challenges branches had had to face over that time. There was falling membership and income in many branches but the basic overheads like premises and employing staff remained the same and there was no reduction in the work branches had to do. This was not being addressed in the motion and report but the proposal was that branches could get extra money on the basis of planned activity. One of the North West NEC members suggested that this may well go down like a lead balloon at conference. After the debate however the motion was carried.
John Jones, Water, Environment and Transport Service Group NEC member and also from the North West reported on the positive outcome in United Utilities branch regarding the removal of the threat to close the Defined Benefit pension scheme (for the time being) following healthy returns for strike action and action short of strike by UNISON and the 3 smaller Trade Unions at United Utilities.

Finally under NEC minutes after a number of NEC members had submitted written questions as to why there was no reference in the minutes to the statement read out regarding the General Secretary election by the President at the start of the 9th December 2015 meeting, it was agreed the minutes would be amended to reflect this.  

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Return of the Returning officer

At the start of the NEC meeting held on Wednesday 17th February 2016 the UNISON President made a statement that the union was still waiting for the returning officer’s report in relation to the General Secretary election – the result of which was declared on 17th December 2015. The President expressed frustration that this was the case (This report has now been published on the UNISON national website - Friday 19th February 2016).

See here:

It had been hoped the report would have been ready by 11th January 2016. NEC members from the North West (myself included) asked a number of questions about the reasons for the delay as it was unusual for the report not to be available on the date the election result was declared. The President stated that she assumed the reason for the delay was because there had been so many complaints and that the union had a duty to publish the report. 
A highlight of the report now published was that ’83 complaints were received regarding staff in the Greater London Region, specifically that UNISON staff during working time were undertaking campaigning activities. The basis of all these complaints was a recording and a transcript of a meeting that took place at the Greater London UNISON offices at 2 p.m. on 21st October 2015.’ ‘These complaints are, as at the date of this report, the subject of an ongoing investigation by the union.’ – Report dated 18th February 2016.  
There is some analysis that any undue influence by these campaigning activities in the Greater London Region has not affected the outcome of the election - ‘of the 12 regions the percentage vote for Dave Prentis in the Greater London Region is the 2nd lowest percentage votes he received by Region. ‘It should also be emphasised that the returning officer has not at any stage been presented with any evidence that suggests that any candidates were directly involved in, or had any knowledge of any of the activities that were the subject of the complaints’.

There needs to be a period of reflection on all of this and the union’s NEC should have the opportunity to discuss the conclusion and recommendations of the report. There are a number of issues including the poor turnout in the election (9.8%), much lower than previous General Secretary elections, which shows a worrying disengagement of members from their union.  There is also a further article in the latest ‘Private Eye’ magazine on the UNISON General Secretary election ‘Flexible friends’ No. 1412 19th February – 3rd March 2016 which raises further worrying concerns for the union. This was raised by a North West NEC member at the meeting on 17th February 2016 asking was there an investigation into the new Private Eye allegations? The President replied that she had not seen the Private Eye allegations.  
I will blog a full report of the rest of the business discussed at the NEC meeting on 17th February 2016 separately.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Personal report of Development and Organisation subcommittee of the UNISON NEC 13th January 2016

Under the Recruitment and Organising report the figures up to the end of last year indicated there had been a net membership loss of 36,851 members this was of a membership of 1.25 million. It was stated by the national officer, Strategic Organising that compared to other unions we were doing quite well in a difficult period. 30% of those joining are not directly employed in the public sector (Private and voluntary sector). Membership in the Health service continues to hold up. The nature of the union is gradually changing as a result of these trends. Turnover rate was about 15%. This meant we had to recruit 180,000 members a year to stand still. Turnover had been about 11% before the austerity years. There were a lot of people in the public sector not in a union – so it was not the case we should focus everything on the private and voluntary sector.
Annual Line Count process - at the end of September a manual line count of the DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) schedules from employers is undertaken and member figures are added for members who pay by other methods. Regions were asked to take the DOCAS schedule information for 96% of their DOCAS membership. The annual line count process indicated a 17% turnover. Membership at 30th September 2015 was 1,254,250. In early 2017 UNISON will have its membership audited by an assurer so a Membership Audit Certificate can be issued and next year the membership figures will be taken from RMS/WARMS. This means there needs to be an intensive data cleansing process between October and December 2016.

Overseas members recruitment (Overseas nurses organising campaign) – a report had been circulated by the Head of Strategic Organising which also highlighted Government hypocrisy on immigration. The Government had failed to ensure that there were sufficient trained staff in the NHS but had also removed nursing from the shortage occupation list of migration and restricted the rights of non- EU migrants to apply for permanent residency if their salary was less than £35,000. This meant that migrant nurses including UNISON members would be faced with dismissal from their jobs from April 2016. UNISON organised a successful campaign to get the Government to withdraw these measures. On 15th October 2015 Theresa May announced she has temporarily included nursing on the Shortage occupation list. It is estimated 2,000 to 3,000 overseas nurses have been recruited by UNISON organisers.
A report was received on organising in UNISON Four seasons Healthcare project. Membership has been growing to a reasonable density. The aim was also to build up the membership in Care UK.

There was an item on Private contractor organisation and organising strategy – These were recommendations that came out of a recent private contractors national seminar which was held on 9th/10th November 2015. Work had been done to implement a 2014 National Delegate Conference resolution on Organising in fragmented workplaces which was referred to in the 2015 annual report. 4 main issues identified in the seminar were 1) Private contractors structures and democracy 2) Private contractor planning and branch allocation 3) Private contractor activist development 4) Private contractor membership eligibility. 3 options were put to the seminar 1) Do nothing 2) Have private contractors as a full blown Service Group 3) Establish national private contractor forums.  Option 3 was agreed as the best and most pragmatic by the forum and D&O Committee. For the first of the 4 issues above rule changes were approved by D&O to go to full NEC to allow the Private Contractors national forum to submit 2 motions and amendments to National Conference and individual Service Group conferences. There was a 7 page appendix tabled on Membership eligibility – UNISON Rulebook interpretation. ‘UNISON rules permit recruitment and organising across private sector employers that have some public service function’. The general assumption was we take people into membership in the private sector unless there is a compelling reason not to.
The Head of RMS Operations stated that there was a plan to get reports to Regions on a weekly basis of all join online members with a list of employers also an email would be sent to Branch Secretaries with this information so they are 100% aware of join online members going into their branch.

Under Recruitment and Organising in schools update – UNISON membership had peaked in schools in Autumn 2014 but there had been a significant increase in leavers since then. Around half of our members in schools are teaching/classroom assistants. Recruitment had spiked when linked to specific campaigns e.g. industrial action over Pensions or NJC disputes. 20% of our total membership is in schools with 13% of the total membership being teaching assistants. Possible reasons were given for the recent loss of members – a cut back in support staff and other unions being more aggressive. There was also the lack of a recent campaign around pay.
Under Learning and Organising activity we were presented with various tables which showed stats for reps, Health and Safety reps and Union Learning reps trained in 2015 compared to 2014 by Region. 447 new stewards had been appointed in the North West in 2015 with 124 of these being Employment Relations Act (ERA) accredited by the end of 2015. 

Continued development of the RMS – Development has started to introduce a third collection date for Direct Debit payers at the end of the calendar month in addition to the 1st and 15th of the month where we already collect subscriptions. This was welcomed by the committee. I stated that this was not just a technical matter as there are competitor unions offering 2 or 3 dates plus a 4 weekly option.  RMS has continued to be developed to support any mass DOCAS to Direct Debit switch.
We approved 2 motions to go from D&O to NEC for submission to 2016 National Delegate Conference – one on ‘Trade Union facilities’ and the other on ‘ Strengthening our union: Supporting and developing our stewards’. D&O is entitled to 2 of the 12 motions the NEC as a whole can submit. Rule amendments were also approved to go the NEC in relation to the establishment of the Private Contractors national forum referred to earlier in this report and also on Schedule C on elections which allows the NEC to consider alternative voting methods for Service Group Executive elections.

8 Branches are currently under Regional supervision – none from the North West.
We received full documentation regarding a Certification Officer’s decision with reference to a complaint by a disgruntled ex-activist which generally found in favour of the branch concerned although 1 rule does need updating at their AGM this year. 

An honorary life membership award was approved.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council Wednesday 9th December 2015

I have already blogged about certain other matters that are still ongoing:

but here is my report of the rest of the NEC meeting held on 9th December 2015:

The meeting moved to the rest of the business - several NEC members were welcomed back after illness and Best Wishes were sent to former NEC member Max Watson who was also ill. The President also made reference to the serious injury (from which he has now recovered) of John Jones from the North West and WET service group.

A number of obituaries were read out including for Craig Wilde of North West Ambulance service UNISON branch.
There was a Service Group update given ‘Pay campaign/National industrial action’. It was asked by an NEC member ‘Did we have a strategy on Pay?’ It was also asked by a number of NEC members what were we planning to do on pay? and what would be co-ordinated between Service groups in terms of Industrial Action? This appeared vague from the written report that had been circulated beforehand. In reply it was stated that ‘smart forms of Industrial action’ i.e. including selective action were being floated as a point for discussion. There had been a pay summit in the Autumn involving service group reps, Regional activists and Self organised groups at which this had been discussed.   

John Jones from the North West reported that the Environment Agency (EA) had got slightly better than the 1% pay increase given elsewhere. It was hoped that the EA would not be subject to cuts any more than already the case. The NEC was asked to send a message of support to the workers who had done sterling work as regards the recent floods.
Forward planning and Budgets 2016 - In response to this report it was asked by an NEC member – how much was in the Industrial Action (I.A) fund? And over the last few months in that NEC members branch there had been an increase in members who elected to pay into the Affiliated political fund (APF) now increasing from 25% to 40% of members – was this being reflected nationally?

Another NEC member asked ‘in the budget figures which line is it where we had spent money on the General Secretary election?’ and if we had to rerun the General Secretary election where would we find that money? The President advised the last question would not be answered today. Finance would be contacted over the other questions and the information hopefully would be available before the end of the meeting. There was also an Industrial Action committee after the full NEC at which information would be provided.
Draft objectives 2016 – A consultation process had taken place across the union which was a process that takes place every year with the constituent parts of the union. The key changes this year were the reference to the Trade Union bill and also direct reference to racism including that suffered by migrant workers and also to combatting UKIP. The challenge of the Trade Union bill was a priority objective in every sense.

I stated that it was commendable that the reference to racism and combatting UKIP had been included in the draft objectives after the outright poisonous racist comments of Farage of UKIP after the Oldham by election where Labour had defeated UKIP and we needed to keep our eye on this as this unfolded.
Another NEC member also welcomed this reference and also referred to the increase in Islamophobia in society at large. 

General Secretary report – Dave Prentis devoted quite a lot of his report to updating the NEC on the campaign against the Tories Trade Union bill which was now worming its way through the House of Lords. We had been working with the TUC. The ballot provisions in the bill in particular were a negation of democracy. Evidence had been given to a select committee of Parliament by a number of the General Secretaries and Frances O’Grady of the TUC. UNITE had surprisingly written to Cameron saying they would accept voting thresholds if the Tories caved on electronic voting which was very disturbing as no union should have truck with this disgraceful legislation. Dave Prentis thanked members for attending the demonstration against austerity and the Trade Union bill in Manchester on October 4th 2015 at the Tory party conference. It was hoped the part of the bill removing DOCAS (or ‘check off’) – automatic deduction of union subscriptions from salary - would be dropped in the Lords. The 2nd reading in the House of Lords was planned for 11th January 2016. Dave Prentis again stated that we should plan for the worst if the Tories removed DOCAS and we were putting systems in place for this eventuality but we didn’t need a knee jerk response. To transfer members to Direct Debit from DOCAS if we had to do it would be one of the biggest exercises we had ever undertaken as a union.
There was a week of action against the Trade Union bill 8th February to 14th February 2016. Information would need to go to branches before Christmas to give 4 weeks for branches to organise for it. This week of action had only been decided on the previous day after a debate with all the Trade Unions. Work would have to be done nationally and from the Regions.

One of the North West NEC members in relation to the threshold for Industrial Action ballots stated that if the worst came to the worst and the change came in to ballot thresholds, branches may want to go early on local disputes so they did not get to the position whereby if the situation drags on they did not get to the threshold level on the ballot after the change.
Dave Prentis stated that the Junior Doctors dispute was an important one over unsocial hours and this would be a big issue for our members in the NHS. The British Medical Association had never balloted before and they had sought help from UNISON with regards to this. We would work closely with Junior Doctors.  

Strike action is being undertaken in Further Education colleges in January against their funding cuts and a message of solidarity was sent from the NEC.
Reference was also made to the Tory U turn on tax credits and the part UNISON had played in this where the Government had tried to reduce the income of some of the lowest paid people in the country. Also referred to was the hit to Local Government funding. Local Government had lost half of its income in the previous few years.

A major campaign in the New Year would be against the Tory plan that student nurses no longer receive bursaries but would have to take out loans to train. This would not get more people into nursing. There would be a summit in January 2016 at the UNISON Centre in London of those groups campaigning on this issue including the Royal College of Midwives and BAOT (British Association of Occupational Therapists).
On the UK bombing of Syria an anti-war statement was read out and we were right not to agree with Parliament that this would get us anywhere in relation to defeating IS/Daesh.

In reference to the recent floods in Cumbria and Lancashire, Roger Bannister, North West NEC member suggested that as well sending a message of support to the public service workers who had battled the recent floods, that we protest to the Government about the cuts in flood defence which meant that more people would be put at risk from this type of disaster.
In the recruitment and retention organising report, the loss of state funding for Trade Union education was raised from the Autumn of 2016. UNISON is reviewing the way training in the union is undertaken. The Union Learning Fund is also under threat.

Under Any other Business - Dave Prentis announced that Karen Jennings, Assistant General Secretary was retiring and she was congratulated and thanked for all the work she had done for the union. It was agreed that Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary would replace her as a UNISON delegate to the TUC General Council.