Delegates were reminded that pay freezes and paltry rises over the past few years have led to a 13-17% pay cut for most of our members. With rises in food and energy prices, this has had a big impact on many as they have seen the money in their pockets more and more squeezed. However, for our low paid members, it has forced many into a choice of eating or heating, reliance on foodbanks to feed their kids and the need to work more than one job.
This has been exacerbated by a steep rise in zero hours contracts, especially (though not exclusively) in the private and voluntary sector, and a failure by many employers to pay the living wage, with more than 5 million out of only 38 million people of working age earning below this level.
And all this at a time when the rich have seen their wealth rise by £190 billion and the levels of income inequality are as high as they were in Victorian times.
UNISON's Local Government leaders pledged to continue to vigorously campaign for an end to zer hours contracts and a living wage for all.
None of the Branch motions were prioritised and none of the Scottish Local Government motions were debated, through lack of time, so Regional Delegate, Inez Teece and Service Group Executive delegate Susan Kennedy had no opportunity to move or speak to their motions.
Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair was the only delegate to speak this year, speaking in both the pay debate and again in the City of Edinburgh motion on Contempt of Court Proceedings against council staff involved in Child Care and Child Protection.
Kate also chaired a Fringe Meeting, “Challenges for Social Workers and the art of radical social work today,” organised by UNISON Scotland's Social Work Issues Group (SWIG).
Speakers John Stevenson and Colin Turbett from SWIG and Helga Pyle, the National Officer for Social Care gave presentations on the challenges facing social work today.
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 Brighton was agreed at the Branch Committee and 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. We are very pleased that for the fourth year in a row, our branch secretary, Inez Teece has been elected as regional delegate, along with Scott Donohoe, from Glasgow Branch.
Service Group Executive (SGE): Assistant Branch Secretary, Susan Kennedy is an elected member of the ruling body for UNISON's Local Government Service Group, and she will take her place on the stage during this conference and will speak on behalf of the SGE. We wish Susan well for her first conference in this role.
Our branch submitted three motion to the Conference Agenda this year. The motions were approved at the Branch Committee in January and are titled Campaigning against Cuts and Attacks on Services and Workers; Pay 2014/2015 - We're Worth It!; and Protection of Social Work Members in Contempt Proceedings. Unfortunately none have made it on to the final Agenda though the issues are included in other motions so delegates may get the chance to speak in the debate on these topics.
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.