Aberdeenshire UNISON

National Delegate Conference 2008
17th-20th June Bournemouth

Conference Report

Branch delegationThe report below outlines most of the key issues of relevance to the branch, which were discussed at National Delegate Conference 2008. Unfortunately none of the branch delegation was able to speak at Conference this year, despite an attempt to get in on the debate. However, as always the delegation was disciplined in attending and voting in accordance with branch policy.

Working together to face the challenges
Raise our people up or our people will bring you down, was General Secretary Dave Prentis' stark warning to the government as UNISON's National Conference in June set out a new 'working together' agenda to defend public services and the public service team that delivers them.

Joint working, especially between the big Health and Local Government services, took centre stage as the Conference laid out strategies to face up to the challenges of shared services, pay limits, cuts and privatisation.

But it is not just the big services that are affected. Delegates from Higher Education, Energy, Police and the whole range of public services underlined the need to defend the public service ethos against the drive for profit.


NHS 60
How often do we need reminded that public services were made public all those years ago precisely because private, profit based service delivery dismally failed?

And how better could that have been demonstrated than by the celebration of the NHS's 60th birthday? Scotland - where the first ever NHS hospital came into operation - was to the fore again in the debate.

It is hard to imagine now that some of our grandparents were born at a time when money - and class - dictated how or whether you got basic medical treatment.

But public services are about people. The people who depend on them and the people who deliver them.

South Lanarkshire's John McLaughlin, a home carer, couldn't have underlined that - and the real effect of privatisation - better when he asked, "Would we rather big business looked after our mums and dads, or dedicated carers?" Conference pledged to oppose the further privatisation of Home Care Services.


But we can't challenge any of this if we are not organised ourselves. That's why decisions on updating our organisation and recruitment strategy, UNISON's democratic structures and our political fund were also key debates.

Mike KirbyScottish Convenor Mike Kirby hammered home the need to review our 10 year old structures and update them to meet the challenges of the 21st century, not least in terms of how we relate to devolved government across the nations.

It is about developing UNISON's unique democracy. It is about rights but also responsibilities. Most of all it is about members getting involved in the union at all levels. Key to it is the involvement of branches in policy making and delivering those policies as one union

And in a significant move, Conference agreed to reduce new members' qualifying time for legal support to four weeks.

The biggest challenge in the union's history has been the fight for equal pay and the Conference threw its weight behind a funding formula to meet that challenge. It agreed that it is only through a collective approach from UNISON that we can resource the challenge that we face in securing equal pay for our members.

And Conference backed a review of the union's political fund, rejecting a misleading motion that suggested every member's money went to the Labour Party. In fact, only those members who pay into the 'affiliated fund' pay anything to Labour, while the 'general' campaigning political fund has no party affiliation. Both are essential to the union's campaigning agenda.


Delegates voteSocial responsibility - challenging racism
As a union we have a responsibility to members but we also have a wider social responsibility. Without that over the last 100 years, we wouldn't have won many of the rights and equalities we now enjoy - and we wouldn't have our NHS.

Conference heard harrowing accounts from people directly affected by the rise in gun and knife crime, as relatives of victims and as public service workers dealing with the human pain. A measured motion sought to address the causes in communities rather than overreacting to the results which can make the problem worse.

There is no greater threat to equality than the lies and myths peddled by the far right and Conference was united in challenging that head-on, pledging to continue campaigning in communities and backing 'Show Racism the Red Card".

Equal rights for migrant workers do not just protect them, they protect all workers and, as Conference met, UNISON Scotland's Sofi Taylor was launching a charter for these workers at the Scottish Parliament.

Pensions: Marking 100 years of the state pension delegates overwhelmingly backed a retired members' motion for the union to push for an immediate and substantial increase in the basic state pension to 138 a week. They also backed a call for a Responsible Contractor Investment Policy in Public Sector Pension Funds.


And in a global economy, unions have to think globally.

UNISON has a proud tradition of international solidarity and its long support for justice in South Africa was updated as we celebrated honorary UNISON member Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday.

Zimbabwe, Palestine, and Colombia were all on the agenda. We heard of the life and death struggles of trade unionists in Colombia as UNISON pledged support for the Colombian Solidarity Campaign. While some of us face victimisation or even the loss of our job, Colombian trade unionist face death for their activity.

The tragic situation in the Gaza siege was reflected in a call to continue working with Palestinian and Israeli trade unions to promote dialogue and the peace process and to campaign to bring a concrete change in the policies of the British government and European Union, starting with an end to the arms trade between Israel, Britain and the EU.


Scotland in debates
Again this year, Scotland contributed hugely to the debates. Scottish contributions avoided the 'one speech fits all' temptation others seem unable to resist.

Perhaps it is from having such an active Scottish Council where branches meet three times a year and debate issues that our speakers do so well at Conference. Perhaps it is from a solidarity that crosses political camps.

Whatever it is, Scottish speakers stood out in bringing knowledge of their subject, a real involvement in lay activity and a real sense of debate to the Conference. On more than one occasion they won hearts and minds, not just votes.


What is National Conference?

UNISON's annual national conference is the union's ruling body. Every year delegates from all over the country take part in debates to choose our campaigning priorities and policies.

Bob RevieThe Standing Orders Committee (SOC) is responsible for the business of National Delegate Conference and for making sure that everyone at conference abides by the rules. We are very proud that Bob Revie, our Branch Secretary, is Scotland's delegate to the SOC. This is the first time in many years that Bob has not been a delegate to conference. We will miss him in that role but wish him all the best on the SOC.

Every UNISON branch elects reps to attend annual conference and to vote on behalf of their local branch members. Scotland has about 200 delegates. This branch has three. Two must be women and one must be a low paid woman, to reflect the make-up of the branch.

This branch's delegates for this year's conference are:

Ian McDonald Kate Ramsden Tricia Morrison Maureen Grady
Ian McDonald
Kate Ramsden
Tricia Morrison
Maureen Grady


Branches, along with Regions, self organised groups and the National Executive Council (the elected body which runs UNISON on a day to be basis, governed by the policies made at conference) can put forward motions to be debated at conference or can amend motions which have been submitted. Our branch has not submitted any motions to Delegate Conference this year. However, as delegates we will vote on the motions in line with branch policy, where we have that in place and we can speak for or against the motions and amendments.

Kate is also a member of the UNISON Scotland Conference Briefing Team which keeps Scottish delegates up to date with UNISON Scotland's position on the debates and reports on the week's business.

For more information on Annual Delegate Conference click here