Aberdeenshire UNISON

National Delegate Conference
17th - 20th June 2014 in Brighton

Conference slams the austerity agenda and supports Scotland's stance on independence

Conference delegation
Kathleen, Kate, Inez and Ann listen to the debate

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.

We need a pay rise for the sake of the economy

Jane Carolan

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."

A Fairer ScotlandThe kind of future we want
From a Scotland perspective, the big debate for us was on "Scotland's Future", which laid out the UNISON Scotland position on the Independence Referendum - to take no position but to challenge both sides on how they will deliver the "kind of Scotland our members want and deserve." This was overwhelmingly supported by our colleagues from other parts of the UK.

Delegates hold up pictures and placards calling for the release of Colombian trade unionist Huber Ballesteros

Call for Justice for Colombia
On the international theme, Conference gave overwhelming support to our trade union colleagues in Colombia, one of the most dangerous places to be a trade unionist.

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.


Here is Kathleen's report:

Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy voting at Conference

A real eye opener
"First time at delegate conference has been a real eye opener into the union, local government and national government.

"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.

"We also heard about Colombia and how one young man thought he was going to find out about a job and when he met the people he thought would offer him a job, he was kidnapped and only his body was returned to his mother.

"The man's clothes were inside his head where his brain would have been. This man had the mental age of 13. This why it is so important that UNISON supports the work in Colombia.

"I think one of the most important issues that came through was the importance of members' participation within the branch activities, as without members we cannot achieve as much for the benefit of all!

"As for Brighton, it is almost 'Stonehaven' with its pebble beach and cafes and bars looking out to sea but on the south coast of England! As I am the equalities officer for the branch I cannot help but mention that in many of the restaurants we ate in, the toilets were up very steep stairs!

"Therefore, although warmer we'd 'aye be able to teach them a muckle  thing or twaa!'"


Here is James's "Confessions of a conference virgin"

James Mulholland
James Mulholland voting at Local Government Conference

"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.


Who's who?

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:

  Inez Teece Kathleen Kennedy Kate Ramsden Ann Gray James Mulholland
  Inez Teece Branch Secretary
Kathleen Kennedy, Steward and Equalities Officer Kate Ramsden
Branch Chair and Comms Officer (sharer)
Ann Gray. Steward and Treasurer (sharer)
James Mulholland Steward and Pensions Champion








Susan KennedyService Group Executive (SGE)
Susan Kennedy, one of our Assistant Branch Secretaries, will be a delegate to this year's Annual Delegate conference from the Local Government Service Group, which is the national leadership in Local Government across the UK. Susan has been an elected representative on the SGE for two years now.


Kate RamsdenUNISON Scotland Briefing Team
Kate Ramsden will also be one of UNISON Scotland's Conference Briefing Team again this year. The Briefings are used to inform Scottish delegates of UNISON Scotland's policy position on the debates. They also include some reports of debates involving Scottish speakers, and many more will go on the UNISON Scotland website.


What's what?

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
The Branch has submitted two motions to the Conference Agenda: Campaign for Affordable Council House Building Programme and Administration of medications.

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.



Annual Delegate Conference 2014

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