National Delegate Conference 2008
17th-20th June Bournemouth
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
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.
more information on Annual Delegate Conference click here