Like Local Government Conference the focus of National Delegate Conference was again on the pay and conditions of our members, with calls for decent pay rises, an end to zero hours contracts and a proper living wage for all.
There was also a huge focus on the equalities agenda as it is women, especially low paid women, black, disabled, LGBT and young members who have been the hardest hit by this Tory/Lib Dem Government's austerity policies.
Conference backed action, including co-ordinated strike action to win decent wages for our members.
Delegates heard that the share of our economy that goes on wages is in decline, a long term trend that is now accelerating, demonstrated by the latest Sunday Times Rich List, which "shows the fat cats putting on weight."
Scottish NEC members Jane Carolan told delegates, "With inflation increasing and our wages at a standstill, our living standards are falling away further.
"Britain needs a pay rise, and our members need a pay rise, not only for themselves but for the economy as a whole. We must now unite and fight and fight for what we deserve."
Jane condemned the scourge of low pay in our society, the attacks on conditions and the deskilling of the workforce to keep the pay bill down. And she warned that all this doesn’t only affect us as workers.
"Wage decline affects our economy as a whole, with people having no money to spend, a fall in consumer demand which means the economy can’t grow."
The kind of future we want
Call for Justice for Colombia
Delegates took part in a photo shoot, calling for the release of Huber Ballesteros and his colleagues, imprisoned for their trade union activities.
In a moving debate, speakers, including Ruth Young, a member from Falkirk, told of how Martha Diaz, an international guest, faced death threats and the kidnapping of the her daughter, because of her trade union activities.
"I'm not sure I would be that brave," said Ruth, calling on delegates to "Embrace Martha's spirit and her fight."
The branch motions did not make the conference agenda this year, and none of our delegates were up speaking at this Conference. However, the three new delegates, Kathleen Kennedy, Ann Gray and James Mulholland, very much enjoyed the conference experience.
A real eye opener
"So often here in the North East of Scotland it is easy to forget how much struggle there is elsewhere in local government with pay and other benefits. It was interesting seeing and hearing how UNISON's policies are debated and made or not in some cases.
"Great to meet other branches ... and share experiences and problems"
"I had the good fortune of being selected to attend my first Local Government and National Delegates Conferences in June.
"The 6 strong Aberdeenshire delegation travelled down to Brighton quivering with anticipation as there were 3 “conference virgins” in our delegation and we had no idea what to expect.
"Local Government conference covered the first 2 days of our trip and it was very interesting, being on the floor and voting on various motions. Great to meet other branches and delegates from around the UK and share experiences and problems
"It was during the first day that we realised that Brighton conference centre was actually a cunningly disguised torture chamber as the chairs provided were clearly designed by an evil genius and upon which it was impossible to remain comfortable for more than 30 minutes without suffering severe spinal damage or the dreaded “numb bum” syndrome but we soldiered on through the pain barrier to hobble home at 5pm each night after a great day listening to good speakers.
"The next 4 days were taken up by the National Delegates Conference. This was a much bigger affair that the Local Government Conference and also featured a host of fringe meetings at lunchtimes and in the evening. It also featured some great international speakers.
"We were honoured to hear from a Columbian trade unionist who had faced death threats for her activism and it really puts into perspective the freedoms we take for granted that are not shared throughout the world when you hear stories like this.
"We also heard from the head of the European Public Service Union about the danger of TTIP. Something we may not have heard of yet but which could have a big impact on jobs.
"I attended 2 fringe meetings, one on TTIP and the other on pensions. Both were hugely interesting and added to my knowledge.
"My only niggle about the conferences was what happened on the Wednesday at NDC when the debates were hijacked by a minority group who wanted to make a point, spoiled the debates and left a bad taste in my mouth but overall it was a very worthwhile trip and was excellent for meeting other stewards and branches and finding out what other peoples issues are.
We heard some fantastic speakers and for anyone who hasn’t been, if you get the chance, you should go."
For all the Scotland debates, go to the UNISON Scotland website.
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 Brighton as:
Service Group Executive (SGE)
UNISON Scotland Briefing Team
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
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.