Our branch's amendment brought a Scottish perspective to a comprehensive 10 point strategy to prioritise support and guidance to school support staff in the battles they face both north and south of the border.
Susan Kennedy, Assistant Secretary, told conference that across Scotland, Local Authorities are saying that learning support budgets are out of control, seeming to ignore the fact that inclusion in schools has increased rapidly in the past few years.
"Even I can do the maths to see that an increase in need requires more staffing," said Susan, condemning moves in many authorities to slash learning support.
She pointed out that "support staff have helped improve inclusion", yet the council in Aberdeenshire was planning to make cuts of 25%.
She spoke of our branch's campaign, along with parents, which has alerted them to the implications for their children of these cuts, ending with the words of Kieran, an ex-pupil who, through support achieved success in his education.
"The support from the learning auxiliaries and classroom support was brilliant. I needed help with understanding and English. I thought I would never go to college or university because it was just for clever people, but I was wrong."
Susan called on conference to support school support staff members "who provide an essential service to children like Kieran, a service which provides our future generations with the support they need to be able to achieve their goals."
Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair, spoke to the branch amendment on child poverty. It was included in a wide ranging composite motion involving 10 different branches and regions, and ran to six pages and 21 action points, setting out a strategy to defend public and welfare services.
Through negotiation and bargaining; through campaigning with other trade unions and community groups; through the political education of our members; and ultimately through lawful industrial action to defend jobs, pensions, pay and terms and conditions.
Kate told conference that the UK already has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world.
"It is a national disgrace that almost 4 million children across the UK live in poverty and 1.6 million live in severe poverty," said Kate.
"History shows that public service cuts impact disproportionately on our children and the Institute for Fiscal studies has shown that the current austerity measures are already hitting poorer families much harder.
"And all this at a time when bankers are raking in bonuses of £6 billion and when our low paid members are paying more in tax that the CEOs of big business," she slammed.
She called on branches to challenge cuts which will affect our children's quality of life and to call on employers to use Child Impact Assessments alongside Equality Impact Assessments.
Local Government delegates backed a call from our branch and Cymru/Wales to continue to campaign for mileage allowances for members across the UK that properly reflect the cost of using their car on employers’ business.
UNISON will also lobby for a fair fuel regulator to ensure that when there are spikes in oil prices, the fuel duty will go down.
Tricia Morrison, Branch Health and safety Officer said, “This is having a major impact on all our members who use their cars for work and to provide vital services” - lifelines like home care and social work.
“We are particularly concerned for low paid members who pay a larger portion of their salary on fuel costs.”
“This is not a green issue”, added Tricia, “Our members in rural areas need their cars to do their jobs. They don’t have a choice”.
As politicians in Scotland seem set to re-shape care services for vulnerable adults with proposals to merge social care and health within the NHS, conference supported Scotland's call for proper research into the experience of integration across the country, to inform UNISON's response.
Regional delegate, Inez Teece spoke of the union's suspicion of any move to reorganise based solely on the need to save money.
"Just by joining services together under one management structure doesn't mean that these services are integrated. Legislating to create integration will not necessarily make it happen," said Inez, adding, "We are not ruling out change but we want to ensure that any change is based on solid evidence and will continue to provide the social model of care that we continue to fight for."
Inez also highlighted the "astonishing 10.4%" cuts to funding in Scotland as Conference supported a range of measures to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of UNISON members working in colleges across the UK.
"These cuts will reduce courses, increase class sizes and reduce much of the support for disabled students," warned Inez.
She condemned Scottish Colleges refusal to engage with the Scottish government to discuss national bargaining, resulting in 40 individual negotiating bodies across Scotland.
"This service has been divided and they are trying to conquer," she said.
"Without good quality further education, with confident and capable staff, we will not have the educated and skilled workforce we need to rebuild this so-called big society."
She called on the union to bring the colleges together across Britain. "Together we will have a much better chance of defending our further education, not just for our members but for the future of our country."
"How many of you had bacon this morning?" asked Graeme Anderson, Chair of the UNISON Food Standards Agency Committee and member of our branch in the meat hygiene service.
"Well, what you ate was inspected by a UNISON meat hygiene inspector employed by the Food Standards Agency to make sure it was safe to eat, and was humanely slaughtered. And the same is true of every piece of meat produced in Britain."
Conference agreed a broad based campaign to defend the pay and conditions of meat inspection workers and in defence of other civil servants and migrant and contract workers.
Graeme told delegates of a catalogue of bullying and abuse of members working as meat inspection workers - and Conference pledged to expose the situation and work to improve matters. He reported how "aggressive food producers... want to cut corners to increase profits."
And he went on to say that "the food industry has too much sway over the Food Standards Authority."
Public health is further threatened by moves to self-regulation within the industry and the loss of independent inspectors. "This is absolutely scandalous, because standards are already too low," said Graeme.
He reminded delegates of the BSE "mad cow disease" scandal in the 1990s and the recent e.coli 0157 outbreaks in Scotland and Wales, telling conference "we simply can't allow this to happen again.
He highlighted UNISON's launch of a meat manifesto calling for high quality, independent state inspection of all meat plants.
Graeme also called on UNISON to seek collective bargaining rights at civil service wide level. This was "not just vital for members in the FSA but also for the 12,000 UNISON members across the civil service" to know there is a warden to hand to give them peace of mind."
In the last debate of this year's Local Government Conference, delegates pledged support to members working across the housing sector in the face of redundancies, job insecurity, increasing workplace stress, threats of privatisation and attacks on pay and conditions.
This includes threats to sheltered housing officers and in the last speech of the day, Aberdeenshire's Julie Neale, first time delegate, first time speaker, told delegates that in her authority, full time officers are having their hours cut but are expected to cover more sheltered housing projects and be contacted by mobile phone in case of an emergency.
"It is not only members who will suffer by cutting hours. What about older people in our communities who live in sheltered housing who are not ready or don't need to move into a nursing home and enjoy their independence?" she asked. "They need to know there is a warden to hand to give them peace of mind."
Service group conferences bring together members across the country doing similar kinds of jobs or working for the same kinds of employers. Our branch's service group is local government. It has its conference just before the National Conference and in the same venue.
The Branch delegation to this year's Local Government Conference in Manchester is:
Regional Delegates: Two regional delegates are elected each year from the Scottish Local Government Committee. They speak to Scotland's motions and amendments and they keep Scottish delegates right about conference matters. This year, we are very pleased that our branch secretary, Inez Teece has been elected as regional delegate, along with Scott Donohoe, from Glasgow Branch.
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.
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.