Conference report from Paul Murphy (Communications Officer)
My impression of UNISON Local Government (second day) and National Conferences (first three days) was very positive.
A number of themes emerged. Key was building the next TUC national demonstration against austerity on 20 October as big as possible. In his address, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said UNISON would lead a fight to defend the NHS and the welfare state. Labour, he said, should do much more and they would not get UNISON’s support or money for backing the pay freeze. In a very welcome announcement, launching a major campaign, he said UNISON would smash the pay freeze.
In the debate in LG Conference over pensions, delegates backed the SGC (Service Group Council or leading committee) position by a 60/40 majority to proceed with a two-stage ballot, first to decide which way to recommend and secondly to vote on the offer. Islington lost their motion to oppose this arrangement and timetable, and to have the SGC simply recommend one NO vote to the proposed basic deal which falls short. It roughly means we will still have to work harder for a more expensive and inferior pension. I very much welcome pay as UNISON’s lead campaign. But I think we need to be able to fight on more than one front, including pensions. I also think we will need to fight hard to break the pay freeze, and need sustained strike action, not just one day.
It was heartening to see both conferences taking seriously the twin-barrelled threat, to welfare claimants with welfare reform and cuts (notably Universal Credit and benefit caps) in one barrel and the threat to 20,000 jobs providing benefits in the other. Motions were passes by both conferences.
An inspiring part of LG conference was hearing from branches fighting privatisation, notably Edinburgh’s recent victory and our Barnet neighbours’ long fight against the Tory ‘easyCouncil’’s mass privatisation plans. Both have shown great resolve and imagination, and I picked up a lot of top tips at their fringe meeting, including mobilising the community to unseat councillors and Barnet’s own film A Tale of Two Barnets! A linked meeting was very informative on TUPE and how to deal with it (preserving pay conditions when employers change). One impressive thing about UNISON is its wide range of information, training and resources for reps and members.
Islington and other branches intervened in the debate to ensure that policy on Academies, Free schools and other privatised schools was not weakened. We pointed out we could not allow Cooperative Trust schools which were half-way to Academies, and defeated a motion which included support for this. Islington also successfully presented a motion on the London Living Wage.
Rule changes may sound boring. Not necessarily! A key rule change, successful at the fourth attempt, now allows UNISON to expel members or supporters of fascist or far-right organisations like the BNP or EDL. A watertight form of words was finally passed by a two-thirds majority (non rule-changes only requite a simple majority). Fascists and hardened racists must not be allowed to poison a union built on equality.
The conference warmly welcomed guest speaker Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary. It is heartening that UNISON and GMB have just signed an accord to act together, as the PCS and UNITE have done. We certainly need joint action against the biggest cuts in our living standards since the 1930s. International speakers were cheered too, especially Carmen Mayusa, general secretary of ANTHOC, the Colombian public sector workers’ union. Colombia is the world’s most dangerous place to be a trade unionist and Carmen showed incredible strength and bravery continuing to fight as a trade unionist after several of her family had been murdered by right-wing death squads.
Report from the Local Government Conference by first time delegate Dwayne Coggins
I attended Unison Local Government service group conference 17-18 June 2012 In Bourmouth.
This year the conference focus on Pensions and the reduction on the governments pension scheme.
It also focus on the lack of pay rises over the last three years
Pensions debate was held on motions 51 to 54 on pages 42 - 44
Amendments 1.1 on cuts motions and 1.2 voted on was carried on pages 6 - 8
There was no universal action plan on the EQIA = Equality Questions Impact Assessment
The EQIA must also be used better to stop cuts on low paid workers
The Standing Orders Committee - SOC agreed to all of the pension debates
Motions 52 on page 41 Enough is Enough - The battle for decent pensions for women was very well debated
The conference encouraged Unison and branches to start by leading the way and strategising, preparing long term on positive action plans on fighting the terrible pension scheme offer by this government that could affect women workers and parents the most.
On Cut and Equalities motion 6 page 11
Conference make it clear the need for self organise groups to review this subject matters on jobs and pay conditions in local government and protect our groups, jobs and pay conditions.
Monday and Tuesday
Pay rises are still below 0% as record over 2010 - 2011 and 2011 - April 2012
Private sector pay rises is still better than public sector pay rises presently.
A quote from part of the conference debate
We live in times where this ConDem government wants older people to work longer until over 65 + and young people who leave school , colleges and universities cannot get jobs due to the countries financial issues.
Marsha Jane (Havering Unison branch) - 75% low paid workers are now Union members
Conference acknowledged our youth and the harsh cuts in youth services Motion 8 page 13 -14
Government and councils restructuring focuses on youth services which means more cuts to youth services and there terms and conditions.
Youth unemployment will continue to grow as a false economy will cost more in the long term.
Youth services needs more investments. This Condem government needs to wake up to the possibility of even further high unemployment as our young suffer with lack of experience in the workplace and any cuts affects any training needs that may be required.
We should be making more effort in assuring our young people can gain employment through apprenticeships and work experience.
In our economic times conference made us aware that apprenticeship may be used as cheap as labour and we should act against this.
Conference strongly encouraged our Union to campaigning and organising on key issues in depth
Claire McNulty-also first time delegate
Sunday, we were given the info on the new proposals for the our pensions, but as it was a lot of information to take in, I think we could of been let have it earlier?
The afternoon debate seemed to show there was disagreement over when the ballot should be held on the pension deal, by a narrow margin the conference agreed for the ballot to go ahead in the school holidays.
Also Jane did a really good speech on the Monday afternoon, she put it very clearly to conference that Unison cannot enter into any discussions with local authorities about working in Academy's, as it is a form of privatisation through the back door.
The main thing is she did a good speech and people around us from other London branches congratulated her.