NEWS & REPORTS
Secretary's Report to AGM 2014 to be uploaded shortly.
Secretary's Report to Branch Committee 23rd July 2013
The following items are reported to the Committee for information or action
There has been little progress in dealing with the announcements from Education Services about reductions in staffing. However, UNISON and the other unions have so far managed to delay proposed changes to janitors’ terms and conditions. Changes in primary school hours which impact on hours of work for crossing patrol employees were agreed by the Education Committee without negotiation. We have managed to reduce but not eliminate detriment to members. Negotiations with Development Services, which has crossing patrols on its establishment, are on-going.
Fighting Fund Project
The project is now over half way through and we need to consider if we wish it to be extended. Forth Valley Health Branch are keen to continue and Stirling Council Branch are interested in joining. The Branch Committee should take 2 matters into account, the impact of the Project so far and the financial position of the Branch. The options open to us are, i) to stop our involvement, ii) to reduce our involvement to a sustainable level if finance is indeed an issue, or iii) continue unchanged. Pulling out of the project in favour of Stirling would prevent an extension. Instead there would be a new project with a new application and recruitment. A reduction in our commitment to say 1 day per week would count as an extension to the existing project.
STUC Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign.
The Trades Council and the STUC held a public meeting on the bedroom tax in the Old Parish Church on the 26th June. Members of the Branch Committee were well represented. It remains to be seen if a local campaign can be successfully launched.
Act for Care – Condorrat
On 27th July I travelled to Condorrat to accompany a member to a meeting with her employer. She is employed as a social care worker and had issues she wished to discuss with her employer. The member’s home address is Denny which probably caused her to be added to our membership. Her employer operates in East Dumbartonshire and North Lanarkshire so her membership would best be held in one of those branches. However, this could not happen before the initial meeting. As Condorrat lies outside the border of the former CRC I request the Committee to approve my mileage claim of 42.6 miles.
We are now half way through the ballot period. There has been little feedback of any kind so far, which does not bode well for a high level of participation in the ballot. The Committee is invited to consider any measures needed to maximise participation in the ballot.
Unite & Falkirk Constituency Labour Party
The Committee has no direct locus in the very public row about the selection of a Labour Party candidate for the Falkirk seat, which will be vacated by Eric Joyce at the next election. Labour Link members are however centrally involved including your Secretary who is vice chair of the CLP and a member of the national Labour Link Committee. I was able to speak at the national Forum on the Falkirk situation. All the measures announced by Milliband are already UNISON practice. UNISON Scotland Labour link are supporting Linda Gow in the selection process as she is a member of UNISON and broadly supportive of our policy position
J Gray Allan
Report to Branch Committee on National Delegate Conference, Liverpool
This year National Delegate Conference was, I think most would agree an extremely varied and interesting conference. There was a lot of passionate debate around many issues, two card votes and in general delegates seemed now more than ever to wish that their views be heard. I believe that this years Conference was a real reflection on the current situations that our members are facing. We are facing tougher obstacles and therefore we need to have tougher debates. I felt it was good to see real backbone and strong viewpoints from the Conference floor. Apologies to those who have been following the branch Facebook page as you will already have seen the majority of this report.
In the morning of our first day, Conference was addressed by Ricky Tomlinson who gave a rousing speech that certainly woke delegates up a bit! It was very inspiring and the tone was set with his reminder that in the 1970's the building industry saw one death every day. These statistics really reminded me of the importance and good work that all our safety reps do and how far we have progressed despite having still some way to go. He spoke at length about his wishes for information to be made public around the 1972/1973 Shrewsbury strikes and urged us all to sign his petition. Please do take a moment to sign and distribute the paper version (as the electronic petition is now closed) by visiting http://www.shrewsbury24campaign.org.uk/petition/ where you will find all the relevant instructions. Delegates really took something from his address and were on their feet as he ended.
Conference was then addressed by outgoing president of UNISON Chris Tansley who stated he was extremely proud of the work done by activists over the last year. He said that there were real implications being felt by our members as a result of government policy and these implications were quite simply - poverty. Food bank usage is increasing at an alarming rate and UNISON's "There for You" service has seen an increase in usage also. "All in this together?" he asked, "Some of us are clearly more in it together than others."
Conference then paid respect to those colleagues, activists and family members who had sadly died over the past year and marked this with a few moments silence.
First on the agenda to be debated was Composite G "Employment and Trade Union Rights" which was carried. Gordon McKay said "our voice should be heard by Downing St but also by our members." I believed this a very important point as visibility is key in building a strong union with a strong reputation which can best serve our members.
At the close of the morning's business Motion 92 "Work capacity assessment and the denial of disability" was debated and carried. There were of course a number of very personal and moving speeches made by delegates on this issue with many giving examples of people who had been signed fit for work only to drop dead from their illnesses. Something which cannot continue I am sure all will agree. This debate can be summarised by the point made repeatedly that the ConDem government seek to attack those most vulnerable within our society, a point which is sadly true.
On returning in the afternoon Conference debated and carried Motion 83 "Kick It Out - Racism has no place in football." During this debate it was stated that inadequate responses to racial incidents during football matches were meaning there was no real deterrant present. It is vital that the F.A sets a strong example and does not allow their matches to become a platform for such behaviour.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON then addressed Conference opening by saying how proud he was to lead a union such as UNISON. He pledged support to the "Justice for the 96" Hillsborough campaign and also saluted Scottish Local Government members now balloting on industrial action. He told Conference that one of the Miami 5 Rene Gonzalez had now been freed and was serving his parole in Cuba with his family.
He then went on to talk of some successes and plans UNISON had been and will be involved with. The first of which was the spring recruitment campaign which was a resounding success and he hoped could still be maintained. He rounded this point up by saying recruitment "is not a spectator sport" therefore activists must get involved. Something which we at Falkirk can definitely say has been happening. He added that with the employment tribunal fees to be introduced UNISON would pay these fees upfront on behalf of their members and that they were calling for a judicial review of these fees. He assured Conference that UNISON would fight the Bedroom Tax to the bitter end and said "if we can beat the Poll Tax we can beat this!" He called for a TUC mass rally at the Tory party Conference on 29th September which was received well by Conference.
He finished with a promise to double anti racism resources within the union and by stating, simply, that "activists are our lifeblood."
We then moved on to Composite B "Outsourcing and Privatisation" which was carried after another passionate debate, many speeches filled with delegates personal experiences.
Composite D "NHS campaigning" which saw our first speaker against (who felt it did not go far enough) was also carried after a varied debate. The NHS should be a shining beacon to all other countries and we must do everything in our power to protect it.
Conference closed for the day after Composite C was debated "NHS and social care integration" which was another very moving and personal debate. It was summed up perfectly by a delegate from Kirkless who said they were sick of hearing the strain on the NHS etc was due to the fact people were living longer. She said "older people are not the problem here" I completely agree and do not agree with anyone who treats them as such.
After the close of conference myself and Margaret (Branch Chair) attended the Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity fringe meeting which was also very inspiring. It is always good to hear how things are developing in both Cuba and Venezuela and the work which they manage to carry out despite the barriers they are up against is astounding.
Day 2 opened with a debate on Motion 10 and Amendment 10.1 "Bargaining through austerity" which highlighted the fact that the gap between richer and poorer was only widening and the shocking fact that Save the Children have just launched their first UK appeal. These were both carried.
Frances O' Grady, TUC General Secretary then addressed conference. Frances is hailed as a real champion for women and she gave a very inspiring speech. A real "soundbite" from her speech was the musing that "women and children first means something different entirely to this government" when discussing the cuts. She called on each and every activist to get involved and help us fight for decent jobs, defend the welfare state and build stronger unions.
Composite E "Alternatives to austerity" was next up which sparked a passionate debate as Amendment E.1 called for the top 150 companies in the UK to be brought into public ownership with many speakers saying this unrealistic and unworkable. The amendment was lost and thus Composite E was carried as it originally stood, which one speaker said was "a step for building a decent society."
Motion 85 was next on the agenda "Disabilty hate crime" and this motion was carried. As you can imagine there was a very passionate and personal debate around this motion with many speakers recalling personal tales of abuse they had suffered. I fully agree with the speaker who said that this cannot be left at National Delegate Conference, it must be taken back and worked upon - not forgotten about!
After a break for lunch (where myself and Maggie Cook attended the Justice for Colombia fringe meeting) Motion 1 "Organising" was debated. This motion was carried as amended and cemented the fact that in spite of government attacks more members were joining as we had been so visible within work places. "Recruitment without orgainsing is like a house built of sand."
Motion 63 "Attacks on facility time" was carried as amended. This was of course a very important motion as facility time is being ruthlessly attacked under the current government. Many delegates spoke of how they had to undertake trade union work in their own time as many do and how best to combat this.
Motion 2 "Building on our recruitment campaign" was carried and focused on the fact we must build strong links with young workers to help shape the future of our union. This is something I am personally focusing on so I was pleased to see it have such prominence at conference.
Finally, Motion 12 "Campaigning, recruiting and organising around health and safety" was carried as amended. I was also pleased to see this have such prominence at conference. Speakers highlighted what an important issue health and safety was and how it was being used as a recruiting tool. It also spoke about encouraging activists to become health and safety reps. In our branch, we are already talking and acting on this and have seen a welcome surge in activist involvement with health and safety issues therefore it felt good to see this put into union policy.
Day 3 many will say was the most exciting and varied day at Conference! There was a lot of debate around several issues plus we even had two card votes called in one day.
Due to flight issues Conference was opened by Jane Carter, American trade unionist who described the work of activists perfectly "we don't do it for profit - we do it as a service." I felt this really summed up a lot of the ideals behind good trade unionists, it is for the benefit of others and is not constricted by profits as a business enterprise is.
Moving onto the morning’s business, Thursday AM centred on international issues with Composite I "Colombia" opening the debate. Some shocking statistics were discussed such as there being 1 trade unionist killed every 3 days in Colombia making it the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. Composite I was carried.
Motion 79 "Palestine" was also carried as amended by 79.1. This motion created a debate from both sides which highlighted what a difficult situation it is that is going on. Those for the motion were debating that the boycott of Israeli goods should be further intensified however those speaking against said a peaceful resolution should be being sought more.
Further in the day on Thursday there was an intensely heated debated around Motion 8 and its amendment 8.1. Conference of course supported Motion 8 as it dealt with the delicate issue of domestic violence however, amendment 8.1 fell as Conference felt it was too restrictive in its wording. There were many passionate speeches surrounding the issue.
Thursday afternoon saw the rules debate which can often be heated as rules must be carried by a 2/3 majority at Conference.
The first Rule amendment (4) was carried as it was merely to tidy up wording.
Rule amendment 14 seeking to make OLBA mandatory for all branches presented a rather heated argument as many branches felt their accounting systems were fine as they were. This went to a card vote which led to it being carried with the required 2/3 majority meaning that OLBA will now be mandatory for all branches commencing January 2014.
Rule H was carried meaning that all branches must from January 2014 bank with Unity bank. It had been long suggested by external auditors that each branch should use a single bank.
A grouped debate was then held with rule amendment 3 & 5 which proposed the grouping together of smaller branches in order to allow smaller branches attend conferences and the like. This motion was defeated as it was raised people would prefer their own branch to be represented by their own branch officers.
The next rule amendments which followed 2, 1 and 16 were all tidying up rules which clarified the current position. These were all carried.
Rule 9 and 10 were linked to one another in that they concerned NEC members double and triple jobbing within the organisation and both fell as they were viewed as a backwards step for UNISON.
The rules debate closed day 3 of conference and all rule amendments not reached automatically fell.
After a full week of busy conference sessions and various fringe meetings the final day of conference is always a very interesting and relieving day as it's a day to wind up and reflect on the previous week. As ever I found the 2013 conference immensely fulfilling to attend and very interesting to participate in conference business.
The business of conference on the last day was very varied with delegates backing action on pay and under Composite A being carried as amended many delegates raised the fact that co-ordinated strike action would best put the union in good stead.
The issue of pay also came up under motion 19 which was carried as amended. This set out a plan to campaign against regional pay with many arguing that those who do the same job should be paid the same irrespective of location. This was also dealt with under motion 18 which was also carried.
Composite J dealt with how to best tackle the ongoing cuts being felt by our members and strengthened unity between various local campaigns. It was set out that local campaigns must be used to build upon for national campaigns and that this show of unity will strengthen UNISON even more. This was carried also.
Emergency Composite 1 set out plans to further support youth organisations and strengthen our ties with them. This was with a view to stopping influences such as the EDL and BNP taking advantage of current events and leading youths astray. This was carried. This was a very passionate debate as it raised issues around making sure we tackle hate crimes and show organisations such as the EDL that we will never stoop as low as them.
At the close of Conference Dave Prentis backed a vote of thanks to outgoing president Chris Tansley that was a light hearted speech which spoke at length about Chris' roots. After conference the new NEC elected Maureen Le Marinel as the next president for the forthcoming year.
I really enjoyed and appreciated my experience at Conference once again and I always find it worthwhile attending as it is an opportunity to see what issues we are all suffering collectively and also to see different viewpoints on how to tackle these issues. I always come away from Conference feeling immensely inspired and determined to keep up the good work that our branch does. I thank everyone for allowing me to attend and hope that this report has been helpful to those who weren’t there. If you wish to chat with me about anything at all I’ve mentioned feel free as I do have some further notes at home regarding Conference business.