Saturday, 31 March 2018

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council 7th February 2018

The President opened the meeting by referring to the sad passing of Irene Stacey a long standing NEC member from the London Region after a long battle with cancer and Assistant General Secretary Cliff Williams previously Regional Secretary of Yorkshire and Humberside Region who had had a career spanning 30 years in the union. The NEC held a minutes silence to remember Irene and Cliff and other colleagues who had passed away.
It was decided for the first time there would be a 3 minute limit on speeches.
New application forms to comply with the (anti) Trade Union Act would be circulated soon with the current ones all needing to be destroyed.
We considered NEC motions to go National Delegate Conference in Brighton in June.

1.    Resourcing and reshaping our union – 25 years since the formation of UNISON there was to be a wide ranging review of the union a task force would be established comprising key stakeholders.  An NEC member asked about the make-up of the task force and asked for further detail regarding accountability, inclusiveness and transparency. It was stated that if the motion was passed it would come back to the July NEC and there would be a decision on the make-up of the task force.

2.    Turning the union into an organising union. A couple of NEC members referred to the recent collapse of Carillion and Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that this was a watershed moment. We should look forward to less privatisation and services being brought back in house.

3.    Learning for the future.

4.     Workers rights in Turkey – an NEC asked that reference be made to the Turkish states        bombing of Kurds in Syria. This was agreed. 

5.    Modern slavery.

6.     Public service champions 2018/2019.

7.     The UK EU withdrawal bill and the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

8.     Cuts to our safety net.

9.    Education is a public service – A long motion and it had been quite a while since there had been a debate about education at conference.

10.   The crisis in health and social care.

11.   Pay up Now! – real pay rises for all public service workers.

12.   Tackling Xenophobia and the far right. An NEC member made a good point about the rise of racism and xenophobia being linked to ongoing austerity. The motion included organising opposition to Trump and any potential visit by Trump to Britain also to encourage branches affiliating and continuing to work with Hope not hate, Show Racism the Red Card and Stand up to Racism;

There was an update on the work done as a result of the (anti) Trade Union Act. New application forms to comply with the Act would be circulated with the current ones all needing to be destroyed then. I asked a question about this – we needed to make a compelling case for members to opt into the political funds, face to face conversations would be important and these changes had to be in place by 1st March - did we have examples of what the new membership forms and online forms would look like? It was stated that a lot of work had gone on on systems, training staff, new forms would be dispatched to branches soon. Dave Prentis, General Secretary stated that we had made it clear to the Labour Party we wanted the Trade Union Act repealed when a Labour government was elected.
Paul Holmes, NEC member for Local Government stated that between 1997 and 2010 the Labour government had not repealed one piece of the previous Tory anti-Trade Union legislation. We should not forget this. Tony Blair’s biggest disappointment was not breaking the link between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. It was a sign of how healthy the relationship now was between the Labour Party and unions that when Dave said they should repeal the act we expected a Labour government to do so.
Proposed rule changes – A rule amendment was agreed that allowed the NEC to revoke honorary life membership from individuals where a Rule I disciplinary process was not feasible or practical. There was a lengthy debate over a rule change that would exclude branch employed staff from participating as UNISON activists. It was stated this was bringing branch employed staff and national employed staff under the same rule and was translating what was already in the Code of Good Branch practice into the Rule book. A number of NEC members said we were not in a situation like 20 years ago the union was now fragmented with branches covering a number of different employers a member could for example work half time as a Local Government convenor employed by the council and be an activist but also the other employed half time as an organiser in the voluntary sector by the branch. The model didn’t fit with what branches are doing now. We should look at the full extent of the problem first before trying to solve it. In reply it was stated individuals should be an employee of UNISON or a lay member either the one or the other but not both. The proposed rule amendment was agreed by the NEC. There was a further rule amendment proposed that meant the same individual could not be both Branch Chair and Branch Secretary (i.e. strategic posts). Also a proposed rule change that Branch officers could not be employed in a branch – in line with the Code of Good Branch practice.
Finance update – a report was given by a member of Finance NEC subcommittee. Steve North, NEC member North West Region asked in relation to Financial challenges facing the union – had there been a decision that branches would not get any more money till April 2018 and if so why? Motion 121 in 2016 and Motion 103 in 2017 reaffirming M121 how was this squared with those conference decisions? The motion passed last year supported branches right to further funding providing activity-based budgets had been agreed in conjunction with the Regional organiser. There was a lack of certainty for branches. It was stated that it is understood we were compliant with what was passed at last years conference. The Director of Finance stated it might not be the case we would have a £1 million surplus as was previously thought, expenditure was coming through and maybe for the first time we would be in a deficit position. Another NEC member said to have £1 million reserves was not a bad position.
General Secretary report – Dave Prentis, General Secretary referred to the Birmingham home care workers dispute – a delegation had attended women’s conference. The national union would be there for them. Dave intended to visit a future picket line. A message of support was sent to them from the NEC. Dave had visited a number of branches in the North West including Halton, Liverpool and Cheshire West. And had given a reading at the Holocaust memorial day event in Liverpool. Some branches were now dealing with 200 employers whereas previously they had dealt with a much smaller number. Black members conference had taken place with 650 delegates the largest union black members conference in Europe. Black history of the last 30 years had been discussed and the harsh climate after the Brexit vote. We were continuing to work with Show racism the red card and Stand up to racism (SUTR). Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary would speak on behalf of the union at the SUTR anti-racism demo on 17th March 2018 and at an event concerning Enoch Powells notorious 1968 ‘Rivers of blood’ speech on 20th April 2018. There would be a major demo on 30th June 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS. This would be a major event for the union. Also there was the TUC national demo on 12th May 2018. The TUC demo was about a jobs agenda. (A new deal for working people). The union would have our own logo directly to promote our campaign for public services. The TUC had asked UNISON for 35,000 members. The North West Region had committed 5,000 members. We should be ambitious and we will be organising to say Austerity and the pay freeze must end. There was a memorial event to commemorate the life of Rodney Bickerstaffe in April at the Westminster central hall which could hold 1500. Branches were asked to bring banners for display in the hall. It was reported Northampton county council (Tory) had run out of money. There were fears this could happen elsewhere. If Donald Trump set foot in the UK UNISON would lead the demos at the airport and in the cities. Hopefully he would be too frightened to come. UCU Pensions dispute – we had sent a message of support. Roger McKenzie, AGS spoke about the damage Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of blood’ speech had done. There had been physical assaults on black people in the streets as a result. The idea behind the proposed plaque to Powell in Wolverhampton was about normalising racism. What we should be celebrating instead was defeating his racist views in the intervening years.
Organising update – Private sector membership had increased there were losses in Local Government, Health was steady. There was no net loss during 2017. Young members was a growth area – we needed to get them active in the union. 150,000 new members had been recruited over the year. The idea of a UNISON passport was raised as a way of keeping members as they moved between employers, so they didn’t have to sign again – this would be facilitated by digital means. John Jones from the North West and Water, Environment and Transport service group stated that this had been discussed a number of years earlier after being raised by a branch in his service group so the prep work should already have been done.
Service Group update – there was an update on Carillion and Capita. The top priority for the union was to get Contracts taken back in house and to protect services and terms and conditions. The question was being raised by the union: Is the private sector the right place for critical public sector works? The TUC had set up a group involving different unions to campaign for ‘insourcing’ (i.e. for Contracts to be brought back in house) that included Frances O’Grady. Health – pay negotiations were ongoing. It was hoped public sympathy generated over the winter months for NHS staff would help. The funding crisis was not just a winter issue but affected every single bit of the NHS. Local Government – Northamptonshire County council the situation there had occurred as a result of poor decisions and policy making. 2 years ago, the Tory council had decided to outsource all staff and services. Mismanagement had led to Finances being out of control. By 2020 in Local government generally there would have been a 75% cut to budgets. Sajid Javid had given £150 million to social care but this was nowhere near enough to that needed to solve the social care crisis. On Local government pay Andrea Egan from the North West referred to the decision to recommend rejection of the pay offer and that she was proud of the North West and the work that had been done with the Region sharing resources, materials and best practice out to branches. One or two NEC members from other Regions had a more pessimistic view about us delivering Industrial action over pay. Christine McAnea, AGS praised the North West for its social care organising campaign. Also discussions had taken place with UCU (college union) and PCS (Civil service union) about how to get good turnouts in Industrial action ballots.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council 18th October 2017

The President asked NEC members to introduce themselves when they spoke (the meeting took place over 2 floors the 9th and the 1st) as most members could not see who was speaking in the other room. A number of us sit in solidarity on the 1st floor with an NEC member who has access issues (a hidden disability). We participate via a video link, which limits visibility. NEC subcommittee allocations had been reviewed by the Presidential team since the July meeting – An NEC member asked were they proportional? The President replied that when the new NEC handbook was out committee allocations would be listed. The President referred to the sad news of the death of Rodney Bickerstaffe, former General Secretary. Condolences would be sent to his family. Dave Prentis, General Secretary spoke and said Rodney had been a close friend. Rodney’s proudest achievement was the statutory minimum wage. After his retirement he continued campaigning with the National Pensioners convention. Rodney had a deep sense of social justice and was a giant of the union movement. He would have said don’t mourn – organise. Dave Prentis also referred to the sad news of the passing of Mike Jeram, former national secretary. Condolences would be sent to Mike’s family.

Organising update – There had been a net loss of 10,000 members YTD (Year to Date). August was always a slow month for recruitment. The number of young members continues to grow. Density in Health was steady we were continuing to lose members in Local Government to outsourcing. One of the Assistant General Secretaries was optimistic we would be in growth by the end of the year. We needed to be visible in workplaces otherwise people would not join us and stay. Paul Holmes, NEC member stated the young people joining in his branch were in the private care sector on minimum wage shifts not the council. The average age of a council worker in his authority was 52 and a half. There had been a drop in the numbers of members on £25K to £45K but an increase in those £14K to £18K. Paul asked that with regard to recruitment figures could we know how many were in each subs band to see the general state of where we were. Terms and conditions of the members were a resource of the union not just money and buildings. Steve North, NEC member from the North West referred to the social care campaign in the North West where we had organised and there had been good results. There was a question of where resources sit. Did the cost of the branch recruiting a member of staff to help with the campaign mean we had to cut back in other ways? Salford branch had recruited their own organiser. Should the running costs be met by the Region or nationally?

Service group update – One of the Assistant General Secretaries spoke on the Pay up Now campaign. There had been Regional and branch activities, a demo at the Tory conference on 1st October 2017 and Dave Prentis, General Secretary had spoken at the rally in Parliament square the previous day. We were aiming for pay increases that were properly funded not at the expense of jobs or services and for all public service workers. Political lobbying had taken place particularly of those Tory MPs with a small majority. On 28th September 2017 an extended SGLC (Service Group Liaison committee) had taken place including activists from the Regions and Regional pay leads. There was the budget on 22nd November 2017. The SGLC would meet again after this and consider reports including on readiness of members to take Industrial Action. A lengthy debate then took place. A number of NEC members noted that PCS (Civil service union) were running consultative or indicative ballots to build visibility of the pay campaign, identify any weak areas where work needed doing - we could do similar ourselves and use a mixture of methods such as gate meetings and using modern technology. An NEC member stated that no member needed to be convinced that they deserved a pay rise what was needed was a lead, a strategy, co-ordinating with other Service Groups and with other public sector Trade Unions. 30th November 2011 (Pensions strike day) had been a great day and people took confidence from it. Another NEC member spoke of how the public mood had changed and people were saying enough is enough. Steve North, NW NEC member stated that an indicative ballot was a balanced, proportionate suggestion he was not saying there should be industrial action tomorrow. A proposal was put forward by Steve ‘to encourage Service Groups to put in place indicative ballots if appropriate and consider joint timescales’ that it was proposed the NEC vote on. Another NEC member said that 140,000 members had signed the online campaign petition we needed to have 500,000 sign it before we considered industrial action.  An NEC member said that the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) proclaiming a victory over the pay cap because of a comment by Jeremy Hunt could come back to bite them and that indicative ballots could build up a mood. The role of this body was to give guidance.

The Assistant General Secretary who had started the update said we were not in dispute anywhere at the moment, the decision about having ballots would be a decision of Service Groups but that would not stop consultative ballots.

The national secretary for Local Government said the Local Government claim had been lodged early in May 2017. Now the employers were waiting for the autumn statement. We anticipated an offer would be made in mid-December. The increase in the Real living wage and national living wage had led to a compression of the pay spine at the bottom. Alongside the pay claim there would be a review of the pay spine. There was a mood amongst employers that 1% was not cutting the mustard. We were lobbying councillors – all 3 unions involved had asked branches to put motions to councils. In some Regions every branch had met the local council leader. If we were expecting an offer in mid-December it would be crazy to have a consultative ballot now in Local Government. Some Local authorities were offering market supplements on pay in a haphazard way that had the potential to undermine Equal Pay.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary said members were getting angry because of our campaign and people understood the pay that had been lost. We had to take on the Government in a political and industrial campaign. Only 7 Tory MPs needed to change their minds and we had scrapped the cap. The time would come for serious industrial action. We needed to get members to believe it is as important to get a pay rise as it is to keep their job. Dave said he chaired the Service Group Liaison committee of the TUC and the aim was co-ordinated action across the union and public services in 2018. We should say to SGE’s (Service Group Executives) - ‘consider the use of consultative ballots when they deem the time is right’. If we were to move to a consultative ballot and the work had not been done where would the co-ordination be if Health voted for and Local Government against? A consultative ballot if used wrongly could stop UNISON co-ordinating and with other unions.

Some NEC members thought we should not have a vote on this at all as it was not the remit of the NEC.

It was proposed that Steve North and the Assistant General Secretary who had opened on the Service Group update come up with a form of words in the lunch break that the NEC could vote on.

On resumption the proposal put to the NEC was ‘We encourage Service Groups to consider instigating consultative ballots in order to identify strengths and weaknesses and involve members in our ongoing pay campaign’. This was agreed by the NEC.

Karen Reissmann, North West NEC member asked when an Industrial Action committee would be convened? The President stated that we would look for a date when we were all down in London again (the next full NEC meeting date).

General Secretaries report – Dave Prentis reported on a number of disputes. Glasgow janitors had won a 6% payrise – the dispute had gone on for 20 months. Salford branch had won almost 11% pay increase for social care workers. Durham had accepted the latest pay offer with 62% in favour on a greater than 50% turnout. In Derby the agreement reached there after the Teaching assistants dispute was beginning to unravel. Wigan council workers had voted for strike action in August. Action had been cancelled after agreement had been reached. The NEC agreed UNISON would be part of the campaign against the Government’s Universal Credit roll out. Dave referred to recent legal victories on Employment Tribunal fees which was a tremendous decision and also the same week there was a Court of Appeal decision which means employers will be obliged to consult with trade unions around any workplace issues that could affect employees. I raised a point about letting members know about the Stand up to Racism national conference in London that was taking place the following week. Dave said Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary was speaking on behalf of the union on this and a communication would go out to members encouraging support and attendance. Lancashire County branch facility time had been withdrawn – the NEC sent a message of support and Dave Prentis had been in touch with the branch. Karen Reissmann, NEC member raised a point of accuracy on the minutes of the previous NEC meeting. It had not been recorded there had been a vote on whether to move business on or not when the issue of accessibility of NEC meetings was being discussed (there had been a call for the provision of an alternative single room on the ground floor as a reasonable adjustment – where the NEC has met on at least one occasion in the past). It was agreed the minutes would be changed to reflect this. Karen also asked that in future could we add together publicly the numbers voting one way or the other in both rooms the NEC meeting is split over. 

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.    

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Election of UNISON Presidential team 23/06/17

The first meeting of the newly elected UNISON NEC for 2017-2019 took place last Friday at the close of national delegate conference in Brighton. It came against the backdrop of a great General election result where the Tories lost their majority and Labour gained seats on the back of a great anti-austerity manifesto.

The first meeting of the new NEC voted for the new Presidential team.
The broad left UNISONAction slate made a strong showing in the recent UNISON NEC elections and indicated members want a change in our union.
Following the passing away of President Eric Roberts last year and given the fact that Carol Sewell (Vice President) lost her seat in the recent NEC elections there were 2 vacancies. Margaret McKee, Vice President moved up unopposed to President.
The balance on the new NEC is 31 ‘Stronger Unison’ who stood under this banner and are supporters of the Dave Prentis leadership, 29 UNISONAction (the broad left) who want a change of direction in the union and 7 ‘independents’ (not standing on either slate). On this occasion the independents present voted with Stronger Unison.
So the outcome was the 2 new Vice Presidents are Gordon McKay and Josie Bird who both got 36 votes and 28 votes each for Paul Gilroy and Diana Leach. I voted for Paul and Diana. Congratulations to those elected.
UNISONAction will continue to argue in a fraternal way for more openness, accountability and democracy on the NEC.

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 na├»ve 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.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council meeting 7th December 2016

There was a sombre start to the meeting as Dave Prentis, General Secretary gave a eulogy for Eric Roberts, UNISON President who had sadly passed following a short battle with cancer. Dave said Eric ‘looked after people’ and ‘was there for them’. Eric was born in Liverpool and had once repaired the Beatles drumkit and had an early job making pots and pans before he came to London where he was an activist for many years in the London Ambulance service. The NEC held a minutes silence for Eric. There was a planned memorial for him in February 2017. Eric had asked that any donations go to the MIND Blue light charity. The NEC agreed not to appoint a President at this stage out of respect – the 2 Vice Presidents would continue till conference 2017. Dave Prentis suggested there be some kind of award in his name e.g. for best activist or best organiser.

There was a further minute’s silence for Phil Green who had been a UNISON Regional organiser and Roger York who had been an employee of NALGO.

Forward planning – financial planning and budgets for 2017 – The Chair of Finance NEC subcommittee stated that it was important we maintained balanced budgets, we maintained our reserves and did not run deficit budgets. The original 2016 budget was on the basis of £167m income this had been revised down for 2016 to £165.2m and 2017 income was now budgeted at £164.1m. Future income was becoming more difficult to predict. An NEC member asked if we could reduce our level of reserves to maintain our service to members. The Chair of Finance stated that the vast majority of reserves are property not cash. There is £46m of cash to support branches.

An NEC member raised a question about recruitment in the union and delays in filling vacancies in essential posts. What criteria is there to assess the impact? Also could we make Fighting fund organisers posts permanent as in their Region there was an issue of recruiting and retaining quality Fighting fund organisers otherwise we may lose these workers.

Dave Prentis stated that the policy of not filling posts for 6 months did not apply to posts at the sharp end. In the last 7 years income had gone down. An Assistant General Secretary post had been vacant for 6 months as had the Head of the Executive Office. Every job that was delayed in terms of being filled at the Head Office was to maintain staffing levels in the Regions.

Roger Bannister, North West NEC member stated that to spend reserves would give the wrong impression. The issue was not divorced from the performance of the union in terms of holding onto jobs under attack in Local Government and the NHS – this is the best security. The lack of income was because of losing members – we need to be seen to be fighting for members.

Draft objectives 2017 feedback – an NEC member felt there should be more emphasis on opposing austerity as well as the Trade Union Act and Brexit.

Service Group update – there was some discussion of STP’s (Sustainability and Transformation plans) an NEC member said a third of these involved emergency department closures or downgrades. We needed to kick STP’s into the long grass. The national officer for Health suggested that the advice was to not reject STP’s, they are a process, and i.e. we should work with Regions and branches on individual STP’s. The Labour Party front bench had made 5 tests for STP’s to meet. We should engage with scrutiny boards.

An NEC member from the North West referred to the STP’s and how they affect the NHS and social care in Local Authorities. It was about cuts. The North West Regional committee had condemned the secrecy and lack of democratic accountability involved. Shouldn’t we be upping our game on this and condemning the STP process?

Another NEC member said ‘we do not campaign against the existence of councils because councils are having to make cuts’. A further NEC member said ‘consultation on STP’s has been woeful, we should build opposition to them, and they are Tory led initiatives against a background of general cuts’.

Dave Prentis then gave his General Secretary’s report
Trade Union Act – the Government had published ballot thresholds from 1st March 2017. These were 50% turnout for normal industrial action with 40% of all members voting yes for essential services – this would affect health. Advice from the legal department would go out to the union. The attack on the union’s political funds was ongoing unabashed. There would be a transition period to a new political fund system for the union. Proposed changes would need to go to the national conference. Rule amendments have to be in at the same time as motions in time for February 2018. i.e. the rule amendments needed to go to National Delegate conference in 2017. There was a working group of General Political fund and Labour link.

Autumn statement – there had been nothing in it for public services. There was the crisis in social care. Dave Prentis had met David Davies, Secretary of state for leaving the EU (European Union) privately with a national officer. David Davies had been pressed on employment rights. Some of those who had called for Brexit had called for less employment rights. Davies had said he did not wish to attack existing workers rights. Although Dave Prentis had been told this privately he did not see why people should not be told publicly.

TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)– This had now gone on ice.

Employment tribunals - £1,200 to pay was a negation of the right to access justice. We had said this was discriminatory. UNISON’s case was in the Supreme Court but had been bumped off because of the clause 50 debate on the EU.

Disputes – we should have a running list of these including which authority was taking action, the ballot result and outcome etc.

Teaching assistant’s disputes – Durham – rallies had taken place with halls overflowing. 2,000 members were involved and 500 had joined since the dispute. There was 2 years pay protection but a 23% pay cut. In addition to the industrial action several of the Local Constituency Labour Parties (CLP’s) had signed motions unanimously calling on the local council to stand down from what they were doing. The strikers were a solid group and enthusiastic. We would ensure termination letters giving new contracts were withdrawn. Derby – members had voted by 90% to reject the offer which was not a good one. Industrial action was planned for 14th/15th December, 19th/20th December and 4/5th January 2017. Every house in the ward of the local council leader had been knocked on and 700 families had signed up to say they wanted the council to concede. There was a national call for money to be sent by branches to support the dispute.

Roger Bannister, North West NEC member said his branch had put an article in the branch newsletter about the dispute which was important to send a message around the place if councils try and dismiss and reengage.

NHS Demo 4th March 2017 in London. I raised this and stated the North West Regional Committee had backed the demonstration the previous day. 30 NHS campaigning bodies as ‘Health Campaigns Together’ (HCT) had come together with sister Trade Union’s. This was an excellent way of undermining the Tories and UKIP in advance of the local elections and any potential General election but not in a right wing anti-immigration stance. The NHS was the crown jewels of the labour movement and a fantastic multicultural institution. Slogans were ‘no to pay restraint, for a fully funded NHS, no to privatisation and cuts’. I asked could we get materials to branches before the New Year and support the demo as an NEC? Dave Prentis said ’I believe we will support the demo’. There was an issue of the Health Service Group Executive (SGE) and it’s timetable of meetings in February 2017 being unfortunately out of sync and a little late in terms of building support for the demo. The request to support the demo from HCT would be considered at the next Health SGE. In any event the North West and South East Regions of UNISON were already supporting the demo. Another NEC member said this was directly relevant to all UNISON members as a citizenship issue.

An NEC member then referred to the difficulties of the Tories – they could not sort out HS2 or Heathrow and couldn’t hold one of their safest seats in Richmond. They were unconfident in calling a General election. They would only call one if they thought they were going to win. Brexit and even Trump had put everything up in the air. The EU would tear the Tories apart. Cameron had called the EU referendum to put the issue to bed, but it hadn’t been.

Another NEC member from the North West said Britain was polarised as across Europe and mainstream politicians could not expect to get elected as before. Living standards had gone down and people had lost faith in establishment politics. We should support what Diane Abbott had said – it was not migrant workers who were to blame. The problem was predatory employers, the lack of Trade Union rights and globalisation. We should support the day of action against racism on 18th March 2017. Also the timetable for Trade Union Act implementation was available. There had been a proposed meeting of the Industrial Action committee to discuss this and how we respond. When was the Industrial Action Committee to be convened?
It was confirmed we were supporting the day of action against racism on 18th March 2017.

Organising update – There was net loss of membership of 2,223 in October 2016 which was disappointing. Public sector membership had dropped. We had had 500 new members from the Durham Teaching assistant’s dispute but there was a loss of 1,390 in schools in October 2016. There was a concern when looked at in the same pot as the proposed merger of NUT (National Union of Teachers) and ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers). 18% of our membership is now in schools.

Finance update – The management accounts for the 10 months to October 2016 were agreed.

NEC elections 2017 – 2019 – The procedures were agreed. The nomination period opens on 9th January 2017.

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.