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.    

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