Friday, 7 December 2012

Report from Unison NEC Dec 5th 2012 by Karen Reissmann

I'm thankful to Karen Reissmann for her comprehensive reports. I will try to add my own comments on the recent NEC and the issues touched on here myself:
Report from Unison NEC Dec 5th 2012

1) We were informed that the case against four Unison activists which last NEC voted (on a split vote)  to take to court of appeal despite huge cost has been dropped by Unison who appear to now have accepted that they acted illegally in banning them from office. The Presidential team have reversed the decision of the Unison disciplinary panel to ban Brian Debus and lifted it with immediate affect. Points were raised about how to avoid acting illegally again – increased training for panels, review of legal advice, immediate reinstatement of all those suspended from office.

2) Unison finances – balanced budget for this year expected despite falling membership income. Much tighter budgets, may affect our ability to ballot members in future.

3) Pensions – draft bill going through parliament. Unison looking to members of House of Lords to put amendments. Question asked about campaign against the  increased state retirement age but no reply submitted.

4) Pay – Noted successes of Living wage campaigns. Now in third year of pay freeze and members increased impoverished. Separate campaigns planned for local gov, NHS and schools on pay with argument put that we cannot coordinate across sectors but should coordinate with other unions within sectors. Some discussion about the impact of pension dispute sell-out (seen by some on NEC as quite successful) on both members and activists confidence and belief in the union's commitment to a serious battle. Aim is to start pay campaign using TUC to coordinate but in NHS this appears to be agreeing to cuts in national pay to protect national pay agreement and hoping those who wanted to do these cuts outside of agreement will be happy to stay in if national deal is cut in same way they wanted to do locally. So as long as we all take cuts its OK!

5) Campaigning. Celebrated turnout on Oct 20th 170,000 London, 30,00 Scotland and 15-20,000 in Belfast. Austerity not working but now likely to continue another 5 years, more jobs being cut all the time. Decision now to move to regional campaigning rather than national campaigning with meeting with regional secretaries next week to see what they feel they can do. Local campaigning “where we have the most influence”. Some discussion about isolated fights taking place in almost every branch now and need for nation co-ordination. TUC some comments from all that TUC needs to change to become campaigning body. Unison has asked them to prioritise poverty, tax evasion and PFI mark 2. Unison has provided some support to UK uncut with research on tax evasion and avoidance.

6) Recruitment . Figures show recruitment down. Less people joining, more people leaving with one huge exception of Oct and Nov 2011. Despite campaign of most serious fight I remember in Unison's history being best recruitment tool ever, this was not strategy adopted. NEC agreed to make recruitment our top priority. Big push - “Your union needs you”. Lots of discussion, some disagreement from some of us who felt prioritize should be defending members and the better we are at this, the better we recruit.

7) European week of action. Originally Oct demo as to be in their week but dates had been changed. London demo was biggest supported activity across Europe. Next week is in March and aim is to coordinate activity with them – maybe lobby or rally?.

8) Fighting the Far right. Excellent report explicitly naming BNP, NF, EDL, SDL, or WDL membership as incompatible with Unison membership. Any concerns over individuals to be referred to regions.

9) Access to meeting. One member of NEC cannot access the room used for the NEC meetings. Despite the fact there is an alternative room on the ground floor which is accessible, there has been a consistent refusal to use it for NEC (except on the occasion when there was a leak in the normal room). Instead the member has been offered a room on his own where he can access using a video link although he cannot see the NEC members (only the chair) and they cannot see him. Some of us consider this “disability apartheid” and a disgrace and have insisted on using this room with video link with him in solidarity. Many of us remain deeply unhappy with this arrangement which we view as clearly discriminatory.

Any questions on this report or if you want me to come to your meeting to explain further please get in touch

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