Sunday, February 21, 2010

Personal report of the UNISON National Executive Council Meeting 10 February 2010

This is the personal report of the February meeting of our National Executive Council (NEC) meeting which I have sent somewhat belatedly to UNISON Branches in Greater London. An official report is online at http://www.unison.org.uk/activists/pages_view.asp?did=10707. Please feel free to pass this report on to any UNISON members in Greater London.

General Secretary Election

The NEC meeting commenced with consideration of the General Secretary election. Vice-President Angela Lynes proposed that we nominate Dave Prentis, local government NEC member Glenn Kelly proposed that we nominate Roger Bannister and South East Region NEC member Mike Tucker proposed we nominate Paul Holmes. There were 38 votes for Dave, 5 (myself included) for Paul Holmes and 4 for Roger Bannister. If any London branch would like me to account for my decision to vote for Paul please contact me.

National Delegate Conference Business

The NEC agreed to submit motions on the following topics to National Delegate Conference;
Review of Political Fund Effectiveness (see below);
Organising;
Learning and Organising – Empowering members;
International Action on Climate Change;
Palestine;
The Economy;
The Future of the NHS;
Defending the LGPS;
Public Services and Taxation;
Social Care;
Total Place;
Trade Union Rights;
Workplace Consequences of the Recession.

If any London branch wants to see the text of one or more of these motions before they are published in the Preliminary Agenda please get in touch. The same goes for the Rules Amendments which the NEC agreed to submit as follows (some of which are left over from last year);
Rule C.5.2 (this is a revised attempt by the NEC to find a formula which Conference will agree in order to facilitate action to expel members of far right political organisations. I supported this revised form of words);
Rule D.3.1.1 (this Rule Amendment will create a new Service Group for Higher and Further Education);
Rule G.4.1.1 (changes the title of Branch Equality Officer to Branch Equality Co-ordinator);
Rule G.4.1.6 (prohibits one member holding more than one position as Branch Chair, Secretary or Treasurer);
Rule G.8 (creates the role of Equality Representative in the Rule Book);
Rule I.3 (this accompanies the amendment to Rule C.5.2 and deals with the same issue);
Rule J (there are some minor amendments to addresses);
Rule Q (this increases the maximum hourly rate for Reserved Low Paid seats from £7.49 to £8.75);
Schedule B (there are several amendments to uprate member benefits and apply the four week rule rather than the thirteen week rule for access to benefits).

The NEC also discussed the report of the Review of Political Funds initiated following debate at National Delegate Conference 2008. The report will be published and presented to Conference. The report itself will not be open to amendment but the motion which accompanies it will be open to amendment (though branches will need to bear in mind the ways in which Rule J restricts debate on political funds in drafting any amendments).

Members will be able to form their own judgement on the report soon (and if anyone would like a copy in advance of publication please let me know). I expressed the view that it could well be titled “Keep Calm and Carry On” since it concludes that our political fund arrangements are largely working well with high levels of transparency, participation and activity (although these – as well as our effectiveness – could be further improved).

Pay Negotiations

The NEC received an update on pay negotiations involving UNISON members. Members in the NHS are in the third year of a three year deal, but members in local government (now including Scotland) face a proposed pay freeze. The Head of Local Government reported that the National Joint Council Committee had agreed proposals to commence campaigning against the pay freeze.

Equal Pay

As usual a confidential and legally privileged paper on Equal Pay was tabled at the NEC meeting. One item of news on Equal Pay which can be reported is the subject of a UNISON press release (online at http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=1727).

The Court of Appeal backed UNISON’s claim that women working for Sheffield City Council are entitled to the same bonus payments as men, in a groundbreaking equal pay case; Gibson & Ors v Sheffield City Council. The decision opens the door for thousands of women across the country to claim against their council in a similar way.

A Million Voices for Change

The Acting Head of Policy gave a verbal report on the Million Voices campaign. One third of branches had signed up as at 10 February and the Union hopes to increase this to one half shortly. The next phase of the campaign will, subject to the approval of the General Political Fund Committee, involve media advertising and celebrity endorsements.

Management Accounts

It was reported to the NEC that the revenue results for the Union in 2010 were better than budget with a net surplus of £5 Million from an income of £115.7 Million. The Chair of the Finance Committee reported that it should no longer be necessary to “top slice” branch funding to contribute to funding Equal Pay litigation and that this matter will be reported to Conference as part of the Financial Reports.

Staffing Issues

The Chair of the Staffing Committee reported on the staff pay claim and staff pension recovery plan and on the implementation of the “Meeting the Organising Challenge” project in the Regions. I asked whether there were any proposals to change the Union’s current practice of enforcing retirement at 65 and was assured that there are no such proposals.

General Secretary’s Report

The General Secretary gave a verbal report covering the following issues;
The successful Devon strike against Sodexho;
The demonstration called by the National Pensions Convention on Saturday 10 April;
Issues around governance of the Local Government Pension Scheme and proposals for legal action to seek judicial review of a local authority which has made loans to itself from its pension fund;
The importance of campaigning for the cancellation of Trident nuclear submarines in order to save money to protect public services;
The TUC is setting up a “rebuttal unit” to respond to hostile media coverage on public sector pensions;
A meeting had taken place the previous day between UNISON and PCS at a senior level to discuss joint campaigning.

Other issues

The NEC confirmed a decision of the Services to Members Committee to spend £1 Million developing a hotel at Croyde Bay. This item gave rise to a question about the new NEC policy on collective responsibility of Committee members in circumstances where an NEC member is a member of two Committees which arrive at different decisions on an issue (and is therefore required to support two contradictory positions at the NEC meeting…)

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