June 2014 in Glasgow
Conference calls for unity to expose the Tory lies and to protect public services
Click here for the full report on the participation of Scottish delegates on the UNISON Scotland website
Conference was all about unity this year as delegates faced up to the fight of our lives - against a Tory government hell-bent on slashing public services and cutting benefits to our most vulnerable, whilst doing nothing to ensure the richest pay their fair share in tax.
General Secretary, Dave Prentis gave an inspirational speech and got a standing ovation as he condemned a vicious and vindictive Tory government and called for unity to fight for a better future for our members. He pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with members on strike and warned employers "if you come after our activists we will take you on. An injury to one is an injury to all.
He gave support to the Glasgow homeless care worker strikers on their eleventh week of action and on the Thursday evening conference delegates staged a big demo outside the Glasgow City Chambers in support of the striking workers.
Dave also condemned the SECC management for refusing trade union recognition and sacking UNISON steward Rab O'Donnell. Delegates to Local Government Conference had staged a protest outside the SECC earlier in the week, in support of Rab.
On the Friday conference voted to suspend standing orders to allow Rab to address conference.
Paul Moist General Secretary of CUPE,the Canadian Public Services Union in an inspiring speech, highlighted the similarities between Canada and the UK with the poor hit hardest and attacks on trade union rights and called for solidarity across borders.
"We must combat the accumulation of power that leaves so many powerless," said Paul. "Working people must stick together."
Homes for people not profit
Branch delegates participated fully in the debate. In her maiden speech to conference, Ann Gray told conference that homes are for people, not profits.
Seconding a composite motion which included the branch's motion on housing and living rents, Ann said, “Now in the 21st Century we need a system of rent controls based in a living rent, security of tenure and rented housing quality standards in partnership with a public sector led house building programme to deliver homes for people, reduce welfare costs and allow rental income to be reinvested in Scotland’s infrastructure instead of being dumped in offshore tax havens.”
Give our members confidence that they can make a difference
Branch Chair, Kate Ramsden issued a challenge to all delegates, calling on them to get the message out to our members that austerity is not just bad for our members and the services we provide, but is also bad for the economy.
Kate said: “People – including many of our members - don’t believe that this Tory government has presided over the biggest mass transfer of wealth from the rest of us to the super rich, but it’s true.
“The UK has become the EU’s most unequal country with wage inequality in this country now above that of the US average. By late 2014 Chief Execs of FTSE 100 companies were paid on average 342 times more than their minimum wage employees."
Social care staff need UNISON - and some good news from Scotland
Later Kate spoke again to tell delegates that the UNISON members in the City of Edinburgh had had their convictions for contempt quashed.
“But not only that, in the ruling the judges re-established the principle that the child’s welfare is paramount.
“We were delighted with the outcome – not just for our members but for all those vulnerable children whose care and welfare are entrusted to us. How important was it that UNISON could speak up for them?”
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
Service 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 three years now.
Scotland Retired Members Delegate
Our own retired member, Bob Revie has just been elected onto the Scottish Retired Members Committee and has now been elected as Scottish Retired Members' Delegate to National Delegate Conference. We are delighted to have Bob with us at Conference once again and we know he'll do a great job representing the retired members of Scotland.
UNISON 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.
UNISON's annual National Delegate 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 Living Rent and Affordable Housing and Austerity creates inequality and damages the economy.
The first has been prioritised and merged with other motions to form a composite.
The second hasn't made it onto the conference agenda.
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.