Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council meeting 8th February 2017

Thanks were extended to Suzy Franklin, NEC member who had retired at the end of 2016.

Thanks were also extended for all his hard work for the union to Roger Bannister, long standing NEC member from the North West who was retiring. Roger received a round of applause from the meeting.
Best Wishes were extended to NEC members who were not well – Lucia McKeever and Sarah Crowe.
The first item was National Delegate Conference (NDC) business. NDC is to be held in Brighton in June. There were 12 NEC motions to be submitted to NDC.
1.       Increasing participation/activism through learning. Calling on the NEC to review the internal program for developing new activists.
2.       Developing an organising branch – looking at the different ways of organising in the hostile environment in which UNISON branches are operating.
3.       Workers’ rights in Turkey - This motion concerns the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey particularly since the failed coup last year. Public sector workers had been arbitrarily dismissed in the clampdown. There were already repressive laws in place for Trade Unions. The motion criticises the British Government for failing to respond to the erosion of human rights and democracy in Turkey and urges the Government in negotiations with Turkey to uphold workers rights.
4.       Protecting workers in supply chains through ethical public procurement – the motion refers to the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in April 2013 when an unsafe building collapsed killing 1130 garment workers many of whom were young women. The situation has not improved for workers in the Asia Pacific Region that supplies products to the UK High Street and calls on international treaties and codes to be respected, for ethical procurement policies to be expanded to include all public service providers and supports the extension of Section 54 of the Modern Slavery act to include public bodies.
5.       The integration of health and social care – responding to the challenges – this was concerned with the issue of resourcing and funding not adequately being dealt with in integration of services - there was some debate on this with a number of NEC members proposing an amendment to strengthen the motion along the lines that STP’s (Sustainability and Transformation plans) were not fit for purpose and had a lack of transparency and shouldn’t we be saying we oppose STP’s? The national officer for Health stated that STP’s were a process, they were not all the same and that to oppose a process would be difficult. We should oppose if outcomes are detrimental to members and service users. Another NEC member said this wasn’t just a matter for the Health service group - it is a citizenship issue. An NEC member stated it would be naïve to believe anything other than that the integration of services would be at the expense of staff and the pay and conditions of members. The driving force was the Government agenda of cuts. The top table refused to put the amendment to the vote. NEC members from the North West objected that the usual process would be to put an amendment to the vote to be accepted or rejected before a vote on the motion.
6.       International Trade, EU exit and Trump – this was concerned with the threat of public services being opened to privatisation after Brexit including the NHS from U.S. private healthcare companies. We had campaigned against trade deals such as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership).
7.       Pay – tackling in-work poverty – since the 2008 pay cap a situation of falling wages had occurred. In work poverty was now a fact of our society. There were a number of action points for the NEC including campaigning for the real Living wage and a call on the TUC to organise a public sector pay lobby of parliament in summer 2017.
8.       Fighting insecure work – 1 in 10 workers now work in insecure employment - the motion has campaign points for the NEC to campaign for greater workers’ rights. An NEC member said this was a worthy motion but we could also say something about we organise these workers. Amendments from branches along these lines (how we should organise) would be welcomed.
9.       Exiting the EU - A Fair Deal for workers and public services A lengthy motion. It refers to the four key priority areas set out in the UNISON Exiting the EU campaign and how we take these forward:
A. Employment, health and safety standards and trade union rights
B. Public services and professional standards
C. Trade deals/standards, environmental regulations and public procurement
D. Freedom of movement and the right to remain. Fighting racism, discrimination and promoting equalities and human rights;
An NEC member said that whilst they agreed with the action points in the motion we should not join the camp of those who had respected the result and we should not stop saying we deplored the exit from the EU.
A further NEC member said that after the EU debate and vote, whether we voted to leave or remain we needed to stand together and fight for workers rights. The tone and content of the motion was positive. Another NEC member said it would not serve our members purpose to hark back to a decision that has already been taken (i.e. exiting the EU), we now needed to develop a policy to protect and if necessary extend workers’ rights through the negotiations. The motion should be supported as it stood. The motion was supported unamended.

10.   Challenging racism and xenophobia - Visible expressed racism had increased in the last year, there were concerns exit from the EU will be an excuse for further attacks on migrant workers. The motion welcomes the work done by branches to challenge racism in the workplace but this work needs to be strengthened. One of the action points states:
‘Work with a wide coalition of anti-racist groups at national and local level to support local community organising against racism and xenophobia, including branches affiliating and working with HOPE not hate, Show Racism the Red Card, Stand up to Racism and Unite Against Fascism;’ There was no specific mention of Trump but we were committed to work with other organisations to make sure the Trump state visit does not take place. An NEC member referred to the massive protests against Trump in the wake of the Muslim travel ban in the US. There needed to be more Trade Union banners there and we could relate to the young people moving into activity. There was an ‘unwelcome committee’ for Trump. An NEC member from the North West referred to the emergency resolution opposing Trump and Islamophobia which was carried at the recent NW Regional Council. 

11.   Challenging the ‘new’ Conservative economic agenda
This motion notes the continuing austerity agenda under May and Hammond, the funding crisis in the NHS, social care and Local Government. Post EU exit the Government has failed to develop a long term economic plan outside of the EU. We were in favour of a very different economy, an end to austerity and fair funding of public services. A system of public investment in the economy. 

12.   Getting the public on our side – public service campaigning
There was a further raft of cuts affecting schools, social care, NHS funding and Local government and police. We have a duty to campaign to win over the public for an alternative that recognises the value of properly funded public services. Following a motion at National Delegate Conference 2016 the public service champions campaign had been launched. This motion calls on the NEC to continue to pursue the campaign. 

An NEC member who said they had been a sceptic of the campaign proposed an amendment which was agreed – to add a bullet point saying the effectiveness of the campaign would be evaluated.

NEC Conference plan – National Delegate Conference would take place in Brighton in June. Bids for fringe meetings would be considered at the April meeting of the NEC. There was a suggestion of Angela Rayner MP and a Turkish union leader as guest speakers.

It had been agreed a banner dedicated to a veteran activist from Kirklees branch who had sadly passed away – Dave Ellis, would be displayed in the UNIZONE. Suggestions for a tribute to Eric Roberts, the late UNISON President would also be considered.

An NEC member from the North West suggested a speaker on opposing racism such as Gary Younge of the Guardian or Diane Abbott MP.
General Secretary’s report – The Trade Union Act – from 1st March 2017 the regulations regarding Industrial action ballots come in. The 50% turnout applies to all members. Some groups of members are caught by 40% of all members voting yes as well i.e. A and E and Ambulance workers. The Regulations regarding the collection of money for the union ie. DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions) or ‘Check off’ were not through yet. We had to get tens of thousands of employers to agree to continue check off.

Political fund changes – There was a working group of Finance, Labour link and General Political fund (GPF) to look at options.

Durham and Derby Teaching assistants’ disputes – Action was continuing. In Durham there was a massive reduction but only 2 years pay protection. There was a move from 52 week working to term time working. 90% of the members were low paid women. Derby - in addition to the move to term time working, allowances had been reduced and hours of work. The union wanted the £4.5 million back that had been taken from members. Negotiations were ongoing and the disputes were in need of donations.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary had signed the letter that had been published in the Guardian opposing the state visit of Donald Trump to the UK. We were working with Stop Trump UK and others. I asked that the NEC report from this meeting highlighted this and our opposition to Trump as the stakes were high if Theresa May could get away with a state visit of Trump to the UK with the Muslim ban in place, further attacks could well take place. May’s appeasement of the right wing bigot needed to be ended. An NEC member from the North West stated it was welcome we were supporting the NHS demo (subject to the Health executive agreeing the following day which they did do) on 4th March 2017 in London but there was some complaint why has this taken until 3 weeks before. Another NEC member said whilst we should be courteous to the Health SGE, the NHS was not within the property of the Health Service Group Executive (SGE), the defence of the NHS was a citizenship issue affecting the wider union.
We reaffirmed our support for the national Anti-racism day demonstration on 18th March 2017 – London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and cities across the world.

There was a memorial held after the NEC at TUC Congress house for the late President of the union, Eric Roberts.