Monday, December 20, 2010

December UNISON NEC report

Personal report from the December 2010 meeting of the UNISON NEC

This is a personal report from the meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council which took place on Wednesday 8 December. An official report is available online at http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=6468.

Defending Public Services

The “headline news” from the meeting was that we set aside a “fighting fund” of twenty million pounds to support opposition to public spending cuts. The press release explaining this is online at http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=2082.

In practice what this means is that the NEC endorsed a proposal from the General Secretary to ring fence from our reserves some ten million pounds to be available for campaigning activity, having been reminded by Northern Ireland NEC member Colm Magee that we already have more than ten million pounds in the Industrial Action Fund.

This was part of the debate on the first substantial item on our agenda, on defending public services, during which we were also told that the General Political Fund Committee (which, under Rule, is autonomous from the NEC) had “recently committed to reviewing its operational procedures to secure faster and speedier financial support for campaigning work at a local level.”

I attach to this report the written report which was received by the NEC on this item, debate about which rightly took up considerable time. A key focus will be the TUC mass national demonstration against the cuts as Saturday March 26th 2011 in London. It will start at 11am on the Victoria Embankment and finish in Hyde Park with a rally, closing at 4pm. The NEC agreed to seek a pledge from every shop steward to attend the demonstration, further details of which are available online at http://www.tuc.org.uk/theme/index.cfm?theme=alltogetherlanding.

Of particular significance was the report on joint work with UNITE and GMB, with Dave Prentis telling the NEC that he had recently hosted the General Secretaries of both the other “Big Three” unions at Mabledon Place. (More recently I understand that the TUC General Council has agreed to convene a meeting in early January to discuss developing anti-cuts campaigning, and the newly elected General Secretary of UNITE has gained considerable publicity with a call for co-ordination of strike action).

A closer working relationship with PCS is also being developed. This is in line with the joint statement agreed between UNISON and PCS agreed this year at the TUC (which is publicised online at http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=1967. The full text of the agreement is also available online at http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/campaigns/campaign-resources/pcs-and-unison-joint-statement.cfm). The joint statement committed us, at local level, to “to develop and support links between members and activists. This will include joint workplace meetings, joint public leafleting, locally organised town meetings and joint community activities.” If any branches want local contact information for PCS branches to discuss joint campaigning ask your Regional Organiser (I also have a list of PCS branches in the Region if that is of any use to any UNISON branches).

Public Sector Pay Negotiations

The NEC received a regular update on public sector pay negotiations. There was some confusion about the position of the Union in circumstances where local authorities offer payments which are more generous than the (non) offer from the national employers. UNISON does not support breaking up national pay negotiations, which need not be compromised by local offers which build upon the “floor” set by nationally agreed pay and conditions. The NEC did not receive any information about authorities which are making more generous offers.

Public Sector Pensions Commission

The NEC received a report on UNISON’s submissions to the Public Sector Pensions Commission, which I will circulate with this report. The National Union of Teachers are proposing to ballot for strike action in defence of pensions in the Spring Team. I regret that UNISON is not yet at that point, but it was made clear that strike action remains a possibility once the final report of the Commission is known and, in the mean time, UNISON is urging members to lobby their MPs to support our position (see http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/pages_view.asp?did=12156). UNISON’s response to the cross-service group nature of the attack upon our pensions is being coordinate by the Service Group Liaison Committee rather than the NEC.

Organising Update

Our membership is projected to increase by 2% this year nationally, with Greater London ahead of the average at 2.4%. More than one in four new members join online. Clearly we can anticipate an increased membership turnover in 2011 if the significant job losses planned by the Government and employers take place.

UNISON Objectives

The NEC endorsed a report simplifying the Union’s objectives for the coming year. Our priorities for 2011 will be as to;
Meet the recruitment and organising challenge posed by austerity measures,including public spending cuts and increased outsourcing

Protect and secure decent employment, pay and pensions for UNISON members, promoting equality and challenging discrimination

Develop our Million Voices campaign in support of quality public services, building our political influence and forging alliances with unions and community organisations

Ensure that the union’s information and communications infrastructure and internal management systems are efficient and effective to meet the changing needs of our membership.

After the NEC meeting

Following the NEC meeting, together with several other NEC members, I visited the student occupation at University College London (UCL). I recommend the “ConDem Christmas Carol” recorded by students during the occupation (online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fvZmyQVryQ).

Season’s Greetings

I wish everyone a happy holiday and good luck in facing the challenges which the New Year will bring.

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