First, he joined President, Chris Tansley, in expressing unequivocal solidarity with NEC member, and Chair of the London Metropolitan University Branch, Max Watson, who has been suspended by his employer (http://www.londonmetunison.org.uk/campaigns/suspension-of-jawad-botmeh-and-max-watson-stop-the-witch-hunt/). This campaign has, as well as UNISON's wholehearted backing, strong support from a wide range of trade unionists and students, with 150 people attending a recent lunchtime lobby.
Dave invited Max to say a few words, and Max, in explaining UNISON's belief that his suspension is due to his legitimate trade union activity, said "this is about our ability to challenge management, rather than just manage their challenges" (an excellent description of the role to which rank and file trade unionists should aspire, as opposed to the strictly subordinate role which some managers might prefer for us).
Dave then moved on to explain UNISON's strong support for our health service members who have been taking strike action to defend their pay and conditions in Mid-Yorkshire (http://uniteresist.org/2013/01/5-day-strike-at-wakefield-hospital/). The members had undertaken five successful days of strike action. The dispute continues and continues to have UNISON's support.
It was important that Dave began with these key disputes, not least because such disputes are currently rare. The NEC was told that UNISON currently has one group of members taking industrial action and one "live" industrial action ballot. This is the lowest level of industrial action in UNISON's twenty year history and corresponds with official statistics which show UK strike action at its lowest level since records began (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2013/statistical-bulletin.html#tab-Labour-disputes--not-seasonally-adjusted-).
In these circumstances, a vital role of leadership is to inspire confidence, and Dave's opening remarks were calculated to give confidence to our members at London Met and in Mid-Yorkshire that UNISON stands with them.
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