– By Sonya Howard, Branch Secretary
This was very much a pre election conference with speculation and anticipation of the potential of a change of government. This meant most topics debated were generally non controversial.
Again pay was discussed this time with a view to include our colleagues in Health who have also rejected a 1% pay offer.
Living Wage and Zero hour contracts,
The need for a decent Living wage was debated. Increasing wages improves equality, boost demand in the economy and reduces the need for benefit system to prop up low wages. A ‘win- win’ scenario, for all members and the economy. It was said that the so-called recovery had been at the expense of the workforce.
The scandal of zero-hour contracts has now reached the point where 1.4 million people are on them. This is particularly acute in the care sector with 300,000 workers subjected to these contracts, not knowing what work they will get week to week. Often those on zero-hour contracts are responsible for the care of our most vulnerable in society.
Decent Pay and secure work should be the basic right, not a luxury. It is time to end the zero-hour culture.
The hated Health and Social Care Act (2012) is triumph for the free market ideology over common sense. The Act allows the market into every part of the NHS, with billions of pounds open to private health care.
There have been some striking campaigns to resist the changes such as Lewisham, Chairing Cross, and Whittington. George Eliot and Western General Hospitals all have demonstrating with many successes.
The striking care workers in Doncaster in dispute with their employer Care UK can testify to the toxic combination of private equity and the profit driven privatisation that lead to a race to the bottom, with workers paying the price.
There was a huge debate on the need to expose UKIP for the racist they are at conference. Conference discussed UKIP’s continued stance to stir up hate around immigration, aided by a hostile media and the attempts to penalise migrant workers. UNISON has a proud record of taking on the politics of hate and winning. A recent YouGov poll found that 80% of first time voters want Britain to maintains its tradition of offering sanctuary to refugees. So it is up to us to ensure that the opportunism of UKIP is blocked at every turn.
Some of the real policies that UKIP stand for below:
- No limit on working hours
- No guaranteed holidays or holiday pay.
- No redundancy or sick pay
- No maternity pay
- No job security
- Scraping of the NHS and more.
Rosa Pavanelli, president of Public Services International (PSI), addressed conference to talk about the work PSI does, representing 20 million workers in over 150 countries. She spoke of the real danger of the transatlantic trade and Investment Partnership, would pose a threat to local government and public services. TTIP is a secret partnership between the USA and the European Union. It has a huge potential to open up more privatisation, with legal powers given to multinational companies to threaten governments with legal action if they try to reverse or oppose privatisation. Check out the UNISON you tube link for further details. http://youtube/f8FOUmbeSwg.
We head also from Martha Diaz from the Colombian public sector union, who made one of the most moving speeches whose own daughter was kidnapped. She spoke of daily harassment, murder, kidnapping of trade unionist and their children remains common place. Conference paid tribute to all those brave men and women who fight on regardless as Colombia continues to be most dangerous country in the world to be a trade union activist. In particularly Huber Balliesteros who is currently imprisoned under this current regime and UNISON continues to support Justice for Colombia.
There were several rules regarding retired members’ participation and all these were passed. Another on removing the need to declare whether or not you are a Freemason was also passed.
The controversial debates on bi annual conference and elections were all lost. Another debate on the need to create Disability officers (no longer being necessary for the person themselves declaring a Disability) was opposed by the LGBT representatives’ delegates stating this to be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ if carried. The motion failed to gain the 2/3rds majority required for it to be passed by conference.