The main business of this meeting was conference business, considering recommendations on motions and proposed rule amendments from the NEC sub committees and agreeing a provisional policy position from the NEC. The vast majority of the 131 motions accepted onto the preliminary agenda - the NEC position was Support (S).
Motions where the position is other than Support (S):
Motion 3 – Protection and membership for Casualised workers – Support and amend (S) and (A). Proposes to recruit casualised workers and to develop strategy on why casualization matters. To check eligibility for membership.
Motion 7 Time for Change – a review of how UNISON is structured and funded. Remit. (R) Similar to ‘Composite A’ which was rejected by Conference last year.
Motion 17 Suicide awareness training for stewards (S) and (A) The amendment is intended to ensure that suicide awareness is incorporated into a broad package of Mental Health awareness training to help stewards signpost members to find help appropriately.
Motion 24 – Menopause. (S) and (A) Recognising also the menopause can affect younger women.
Motion 34 – CCTV screening of staff in Private houses. (S) and (A). Amendment as motion refers to GDPR but MPs could only review ‘UK Data protection legislation’.
Motion 36 – Campaign to change HMRC Mileage rates (S) and (A). include reference to Green travel plans and investigate whether doubts about HMRC methods for calculating mileage rates offer a strong basis to run a campaign to highlight the injustice of this situation to the HMRC.
Motion 51 – Intergenerational commission report. (S) and (A) The parts of the motion on removing zero hours contracts etc. were fine. Motion calls for retired and young UNISON members to work together to highlight the truth behind the problems facing younger workers and provide alternative proposals which do not divide the generations.
Motion 56, 57 Tories out! General election now. Defer (D) to be discussed with political committees.
Motion 59 Democracy Defer (D). Proposes change to political funds. Political committees should have input.
Motion 61 Free our unions – repeal the anti-union laws. Support with qualifications (S) with (Q). Qualification – consider tactical considerations how demands sit in relation to the Institute of Employment Rights labour law manifesto. Need to work with TUC, STUC, WTUC and ICTU.
Motion 63 – Democratic socialism – defer to the political committee.
Motion 66 – Blood donation campaign (S) and (A) Issue with language. BAME changed to Black.
Motion 75 – The Fire service after Grenfell. – (S) and (A). Amendment to incorporate Fire Brigades Union (FBU) policy.
Motion 76 – PFI. (S) And (A). Amendment to reflect commitments made by Labour since last year’s conference.
Motion 79 – Nationalise the Big Drug Companies – Oppose and amend. (O) and (A). Not a priority for Labour to nationalise, expensive. Investigate public intervention in the pharmaceutical industry to bring down costs.
Motion 83 – Venezuela – Defeat attempted Capitalist coup. (O) Oppose. Confused motion with contentious elements. NEC has agreed a statement opposing external intervention in Venezuela and calling for a peaceful, domestic solution to the problems the country faces.
Motion 84 – Cuba 60 (S) and (A) include Welsh TUC.
Motion 86 – (S) and (A) Solidarity with the uprising for democratic change in Sudan. Change El Bashir to Al Bashir.
Motion 89 – (S) and (A) Solidarity with Rojava – Change ISIS to Daesh.
Motion 90 – Freedom for Ocalan – (S) and (A)
Motion 91 – Palestine – (S) and (A) Notes Israel’s regime of apartheid and colonialism. Supports BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).
Motion 92 – Palestine – (S) and (A) very similar to above.
Motion 93, 94 – Palestine (S) and (A) Calls for end to arms trade with Israel, encourage support for Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Motion 95 - Palestine (S) and (A).
Motion 100 – (D) and (A) defer for discussion with Disabled members – Make 2021 the year of disabled workers.
Motion 108 – Decriminalisation for Safety – Oppose. Existing UNISON/NDC policy is adopt the ‘Nordic model’. Policy subcommittee of NEC discussed and asks to oppose.
Motion 115 – UNISON to become much more proactive in reducing it’s Carbon Emissions. (S) and (A). e.g. Use Video conferencing more.
Motion 117 – Abolish Trust/Foundation status in the NHS. Seek withdrawal. In line with policy but removing trust status could be counterproductive.
Motion 118 – Abolish NHS car parking charges (S) – An NEC member stated we needed to take a holistic view as in his area 37% had no access to a car. We should have free public transport from the city centre and not have giant car parks at hospitals.
Motion 123 (S) and (A) – Universal Credit in work conditionality. (A) seeks to make the case for ending in work conditionality.
Motion 125 (S) and (A) – Universal Credit/PIP assessments – (A) Takes the policy proposals further.
Motion 127 (S) and (A) – Reduction in Branch Funding. Review processes and systems.
Motion 129 (S) and (A) – On line joiners. (A) - Ensure that the ability to join online and pay by DOCAS, is rolled out to the largest 500 employers where there is a DOCAS agreement.
Motion 131 Working women and access to a refuge. Defer (D).
Rule Amendments – Support except:
5. Rule C - Arrears of subscriptions - Oppose – Change 3 months to 4 weeks. Not an issue before. A lot of members get paid monthly how would this physically work?
6. Rule D - The Right to attend and speak – Oppose – Conflict with Rule D 1.8.1 also 7. And 8. Rule D Standing orders committee. – Oppose.
12., 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 – all Oppose. There was some debate on this at the NEC on the proposed rule change from annual elections for Branch officer positions to biennial. I spoke to say I opposed these Rule changes as the issue was about democratic accountability. If members were unhappy with Branch officers it could mean 18 months or more to remove them through elections if they were biennial. Members should be able to assess their branch leadership every year. Another NEC member said he would be happy to have NEC elections every year if the argument is put shouldn’t the same rule apply to NEC Elections.
A proposal was put to leave it to conference to decide rather than the NEC taking a position. The vote was taken and the result was 41 to oppose these proposed rule changes and 8 to leave it to conference to decide.
22, 23 Rule I Disciplinary action – Proposal to change the longest period a member can be barred from office to change from 3 years to 2 years. NEC position – Oppose.
Draft NEC Annual report – in response to this John Jones from Water, Environment and Transport service (WET) group and the North West said the report should reference the first strike in the Water Industry since 1992. It was stated that any proposed changes to the report would have to be signed off by the Presidential team.
In addition, the NEC voted to suggest 12 motions and six rule amendments to be prioritised for debate at conference.
The motions are:
- motion 77 – Progressive taxes to end austerity;
- motion 22 – Smash the gender pay gap;
- motion 1 – Developing organising resources in branches and regions;
- motion 47 – Austerity and public service;
- motion 126 – Resourcing our branches – a UNISON priority;
- motion 80 – Curbing corporate power;
- motion 121 – Stopping social insecurity;
- motion 70 – Tackling the crisis in social care;
- motion 9 – Addressing the skills crisis through UNISON learning;
- motion 102 – The trade union response to fascism – No Pasaran;
- motion 81 – Brazil;
- motion 111 – Energy: Climate change – a just transition and jobs for a low carbon economy.
The rule changes the NEC wants to prioritise are:
- rule amendment 1 – Schedule B: benefits of members in education;
- rule amendment 4 – Rule C: obligations of membership;
- rule amendment 19 – Rule G: branch meetings;
- rule amendment 20 – Rule G: branch officers;
- rule amendment 21 – Rule G: the branch secretary;
- rule amendment 2 – Rule B: union democracy.
NEC Conference plan – National Delegate Conference was 18th – 21st June 2019 in Liverpool. There was an international guest speaker from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Plus one further speaker under consideration.
General Secretary’s report - Dave Prentis – Brexit – we were 9 days from leaving with no deal. The richest people would not feel the effect if the UK left on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms. Public services would suffer. We did not want to fall into recession or to impinge on the Good Friday agreement. A customs union with access to the single market would be the safest way on jobs and services with no hard border in Ireland. We want a General Election if we can get one. There had been a long discussion at the Policy committee (subcommittee) of the NEC. Policy was:
1. We continue to support the call for a General Election.
2. We support an extension of Article 50.
3. Preventing a “no deal“ Brexit is an absolute priority for our union to avoid the devastating economic consequences for our members and our public services.
4. An overriding priority will remain the protection of our members in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.
5. We support the Common Market 2.0 /Norway Plus option.
6. If these options fail and to avoid the devastating consequences of no deal, UNISON, in principle supports a confirmatory public vote on any deal that then emerges.
An NEC member raised the worry of the far right trying to capitalise on the current situation (which they had done with protests on 29th March). The Government wasn’t governing and austerity was continuing. A repetition of the referendum could see massive divisions again but even worse. People voted leave or remain for both good and bad reasons but a General election could offer a way to unite people out of the impasse.
The vote was taken to support the above policy which was agreed by 39 votes to 8. I voted in favour.
Universal Credit – this was having a terrible impact - we needed to step up the fight to have it ended and reviewed.
Dave Prentis had met with Jeremy Corbyn to talk about Brexit and the issues to be addressed in the next election.
We were conducting more ballots on industrial action than the rest of the other unions put together.
A Scottish NEC member referred to a ballot of homecare workers in Dundee – a consultative ballot with a turnout of over 80% with a large majority to take strike action. This had got the Council back round the table.
Congratulations were given to Hope not Hate for their work in foiling a far-right murder plot against Labour MP Rosie Cooper.
Recruitment campaign - There was to be a recruitment campaign in May. Aimed at recruitment and growth to build on the ‘Grovember’ campaign.
A working group review of NEC ballots was presented with lessons to be learned aiming to identify good practice with high levels of lay member involvement. North West NEC members reported back on good practice in NW Region with the collective disputes team and Alternative Futures Group and also Lifeways in Salford.