Once again our Branch played an active role at conference. Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair moved our motion calling for an end to Child Poverty and proposed our amendment to Cymru Wales motion on the Welfare Reform Act. See details below.
We were really unfortunate not to get our Fuel Poverty motion heard. It was the next motion for debate and Assistant Secretary and Equalities Officer, Susan Kennedy was all set to move it when the Chair closed Conference for 2012. The motion was supported by the National Executive Committee so it will be taken forward by the union.
Every speech at the conference highlighted the growing inequality in this country under the Condem Government. From the increases in boardroom pay of 41% whilst low paid public service workers suffer a pay freeze - a real terms pay cut of almost 14%; to the millions paid out in bonuses whilst more and more of our children live in poverty, delegates railed at the social injustices perpetrated by this government on our poorest and our most vulnerable, whilst giving tax cuts to their wealthy chums.
We railed at the thrust towards more and more privatisation, when keeping money in public services instead of paying it as profits to private companies would save over £100 billion a year.
We railed at the impact of welfare reforms on the poor, the disabled and the elderly and the demonisation of these people by this uncaring government.
And we railed at the attacks on our pay and our pensions and the impact that has on all of us as the costs of basics rise. But especially the impact on our lowest paid, when more than half of children who live in poverty have at least one parent in work. The problem is that they earn poverty wages and even those are under attack.
And we came away inspired to take the fight back to our regions, our branches and our workplaces. To show our members and our communities that there is an alternative to this Condem Government's vicious austerity agenda - an alternative based on compassion, equality and social justice in a society where no child has to grow up in poverty.
And to rally our members to "March for the Future" on 20th October 2012 at the TUC March in London or the STUC March in Scotland.
Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair
poverty: An injustice we have to fight
Moving the motion, Kate Ramsden told delegates that almost 4 million children live in poverty in the UK – one of the highest rates in the industrialised world.
She told delegates that rather than end child poverty, by 2020 one quarter of our children will be growing up in poverty. UNICEF says this is a direct result of this government’s cuts, which hurt the poor, but not the rich.
“These could be our children,” she added. “If not our children, then almost certainly the children of our workmates and friends.” It was up to the union, she said, to force the government to comply with its statutory duties >>>more
Reform Act is built on a sham
Kate Ramsden moved the Branch amendment to ensure that UNISON will produce publicity materials to heighten awareness amongst members and the public of the impact of the legislation on staff, housing provision and vulnerable claimants >>>more
Every UNISON branch elects a delegation 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 of these must be a low paid woman, to reflect the make-up of the branch.
Branch Committee voted this year's delegation to Conference in Bournemouth as:
Kate is a member of UNISON Scotland's Communications and Campaigns Committee and will be on the UNISON Scotland Conference Briefing Team this year again.The team issues briefings throughout conference which keep Scottish delegates up to date with UNISON Scotland's position on the debates and reports on the week's business. The briefings have also been known to be quite amusing and are sought after by many outwith the Scottish delegations.
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.
Conference is chaired by the UNISON National President, or by one of the Vice-Presidents. This year there are over 100 motions on the conference agenda again and a number of proposed amendments to the UNISON rules. Only a proportion of motions will actually be debated at Conference because there is not time to hear them all. Motions are therefore "prioritised".
Branch motions and amendments
We also have an amendment on the Welfare Reform Bill which seeks to add to a motion from Cymru/Wales and calls for the NEC (UNISON's ruling body) to produce materials to educate members and the wider public on the likely impact of the Act on staff and the most vulnerable.
Motions are passed by a straight majority of the conference delegates on a hand vote. If it is close, conference delegates or the chair of conference can call for a card vote. The number of card votes per delegation is based on the number of members in the branch.
Amendments to rule need to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the voting delegates. Card votes can also be called for (and often are) in rule changes. Thursday afternoon is traditionally the time that the rule changes are debated. Many delegates find this session really boring, but in recent years it has produced some of the best debates, and often the funniest speeches.
As delegates we will vote on the motions and the rule changes in line with branch policy, where we have that in place and we can speak for or against any of the motions, amendments and rule changes, again in line with Branch policy, if we have a position.