The meeting commenced with most members in the ninth floor Conference Centre and thirteen NEC members in the first floor audio/video link room.
The NEC sent best wishes to two members who were unwell (Linda Sweet and Max Watson) and remembered deceased activist June Poole, as well as all the migrants suffering around the world.
General Secretary election
The NEC then moved on to discuss a nomination for General Secretary. The President asked those seeking nomination to leave the room and notified the meeting that two members of staff, Dave Prentis and Heather Wakefield, had (as required) given notice that they were seeking election.
Paul Gilroy from the Northern Region nominated John Burgess, Hugo Pierre nominated Roger Bannister, Debbie Potter nominated Dave Prentis, Tomasa Bullen nominated Hayley Garner. The voting was as follows;
Roger Bannister – 4
John Burgess – 16
Hayley Garner – 1
Dave Prentis – 32
Abstentions – 1
The meeting then moved on to discuss the organising report. Recruitment is down on the last couple of years which is alarming given the challenges we face. The Government is to withdraw all funding for trade union training and for union learning activities. The union is having to consider how to run trade union training in future.
General Secretary’s report – Trade Union Bill
Dave Prentis then gave the General Secretary’s report, starting with the campaign against the Trade Union Bill. This led to a wide ranging discussion, during which the President confirmed that the written report to the NEC meeting would be revised for urgent circulation to branches (and throughout the Union).
Dave illustrated the draconian impact of the Bill if enacted with the fact that there had been 101 industrial action ballots since January 2014. Very few would have met the thresholds – only 23 would have been legal. 72 met the 50% turnout threshold but didn’t meet the total 40% of total membership threshold for strike action in “essential services”.
The Union’s response will be to campaign against the Bill in Parliament, through legal challenges, by engaging our activists, members and the wider public including through mass action (at the demonstration in Manchester on 4 October and the lobby of Parliament on 2 November). At the same time, we will need to prepare ourselves so that we can continue to function if the Bill becomes law, reviewing our industrial action procedures, our support for branches coping with reduced facility time and – crucially – our capacity to switch members from paying by DOCAS to Direct Debit.
General Secretary’s report – other matters
Dave then reported on other matters;
· UNISON Labour Link had decided to endorse Jeremy Corbyn, who is the one candidate who supports all UNISON’s policies;
· UNISON lost our case in the Court of Appeal against employment tribunal fees and will be appealing to the Supreme Court;
· Camden branch members striking today against NSL for the Living Wage, to whom Dave sent a message of support;
· Members in the Probation service are being transferred to Direct Debit. We have 40% of members signed up with only four weeks to go.
A number of issues were raised in questions, concerning the vital importance of supporting victimised activists, highlighting the perilous state of adult social care reliant upon private sector provision and the public sector exit payment cap (about which I asked that UNISON circulate our comments made in the recent consultation).
Further contributions were made welcoming UNISON’s support for Jeremy Corbyn and the decision of the Scottish Government to abolish employment tribunal fees in Scotland, and asking about UNISON’s response to changes in tax credits (which will massively hit lower paid workers with children) and support for the campaign in defence of overseas nurses. In responding, Dave Prentis made an impassioned plea for fair treatment of migrants and refugees, which will be made public.
Regarding the Camden NSL workers' strike action, their demand is for more than the headline London Living Wage, though at the moment their current hourly rate is significantly below it at £8.92 an hour. Thanks for the mention of the dispute in any event, Jon, and for your presence on the picket line yesterday morning along with a substantial contingent of NEC members.
By the way, if you were free you'd be very welcome to join our strikers' rally later this (Thursday) morning from 10.30 outside Camden Town Hall, Judd Street & Euston Road, WC1H 9JE. (Solidarity message received from the general secretary late yesterday afternoon, by the way).
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