Saturday, April 21, 2012

Baby come back?

The prompt (yet on this occasion strangely uninformative) official report of yesterday's UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) meeting reports that we received an update on planning for conference, including invited guest speakers (

This we did, and there was a fruitless attempt by several NEC members to suggest that we should have a Greek trade unionist to speak.

I took the opportunity of this item to ask the NEC's "Conference team" to see what steps could be taken to make our Conference accessible to women who are breastfeeding babies.

Those who were at this year's UNISON Higher Education Conference will be aware that a nursing mother and baby were excluded from the Conference and from an official fringe meeting (

A few years ago I recollect that an NEC member was told that she could not breastfeed at NEC meetings, a decision which I have always thought was completely at variance with what UNISON should be doing.

However an NEC member at yesterday's meeting reported breastfeeding on the floor of Conference, so it's clear we don't have a consistent practice at present.

As UNISON's own website says "Breastfeeding is good for the health of mother and baby. But often it's other people's attitudes that makes breastfeeding difficult for women." (

I hope that UNISON will adopt a consistent practice at our own Conferences which reflects our policy in support of the rights of breastfeeding mothers. We don't want to be some of the "other people" whose "attitudes" make breastfeeding difficult for women!

We already, as a trade union, quite rightly have an exemplary approach to creche provision. I hope our Conferences will be a model of the welcoming and supportive environment for breastfeeding which UNISON policy seeks.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


nick venedi said...

Hi Jon, It does not surprise me the the NEC were not that interested or keen to have a Greek TU guest speaker at conference, they do, after all, only talk about when the next strike action will be on and how to overthrow the capitalist system and that wouldn't be what conference would want to hear?? Or it could be that Unison haven't developed any links with the Greek TU's they left that to the French, the Spanish,Italians the Portugese??

Emma said...

To be fair it was not my breasts, but my 4 week old baby that was the problem. I got an email after attending the SGE meeting which said "Lovely to see you and the baby. Children are not allowed on UNISON premises." No mention of breasts, see.

Andrew Walton said...

Here is the NHS's own advice on breastfeeding at work, which UNISON would do well to read - in my workplace, around 80% of UNISON members are women:[1].pdf