Sue Clark, Verena Beane and Allen Hawley attended as delegates on behalf of the branch and George Hulme as a visitor. This year’s conference was held at the Convention Centre in Southport. As with last year the conference was well attended.
Tuesday 14th October
Conference started after the caucus meetings with a choice of four workshops for delegates, three of which related to pensions. Prompt registration meant that we all got into the workshop of our choice. George as a visitor could only attend the Panel Debate which was going on simultaneously
Workshop – Branch Funding of Retired Members
Verena and Sue attended this as it is relevant to the research regarding branch funding of retired members.
Sotirios Loizou (Regional Branch Development Officer) led the session and explained how retired members could seek funding for activities at branch level. He is carrying out research about how branches operate in regard to retired members in order to inform the new branch funding scheme. The new “Branch Handbook” will contain guidance on funding retired members’ activities in a fair, adequate and agreed manner. A revised “Branch Retired Members’ Secretary Handbook” will also shortly be available.
The session included an interactive Q&A which provided both sides with a lot of practical and useful information.
Workshop – What Labour Will Do for Pensioners?
Allen attended this workshop.
Mary Locke member of the NEC and Wendy Nicholl from Labour Link started by explaining how the political funds (APF and the GPF) are operated.
Every 10 years members are asked if they wish to continue to subscribe to these funds. This is the tenth year so every Unison member will receive a voting paper (to be sent out between 27th October and 5th November.) The ballot period will be 1st November to 30th November with the results declared in December 2014. Members are urged to vote yes. If members do not receive a voting form they will need to contact Union Direct and one will be sent out. The APF requires a retired member to subscribe £5 per year.
In the last 10 years Unison has lobbied the Labour Party to support better terms and conditions for workers i.e. to halt the adverse pay agreements for NHS members; to defend pensions; to promote equal pay and flexible working. The schools’ negotiating body should be reinstated if Labour win the election. All members need to know the importance of this ballot.
Finally there was a question and answer session where most people asked the panel about what Labour would do for pensioners. Unfortunately none of the questions were answered in this regard. This workshop seemed to be a meeting to attract votes for the ballot and how much the retired members are prepared to pay towards the APF. When asked some pertinent questions the response was politely given as “If you don’t pay you don’t have a say” which summed up the gist of the meeting. There was no mention of lobbying for greater pensions, keeping the travel pass or retaining the heating allowance, the tissues that really would effect pensioners.
Panel Debate – Organising and Campaigning in the Community
George Hulme attended the panel debate.
A number of visitors and delegates attended the open panel debate on ‘Organising and Campaigning in the Community.” The majority of discussion centred on how we might protect the NHS from further government cuts and how to involve the community more closely. The panel concluded how important it was to:
- listen to what people are saying in your community and identify the most significant
problem people are facing
- identify one small, achievable change that would make a real difference to them
- get to know someone first before you “sell” them any campaign ideas
- frame your ideas constructively and positively. This will help build people’s confidence
that they can change things
- decide who or what has the power to give you what you want
- decide who are your allies
Regional Briefing Meeting
Rob Beeston (Chair Greater London Region Retired Members) chaired the meeting with support from Ann Jefferson (Vice-chair).
The meeting was updated on the status of motions put forward for the RM Conference. It was agreed who would move each of the motions from the GL Region. Members were reminded about the effectiveness of collectively supporting two of the GL motions to go through to National Conference.
North West region organised and sponsored a disco and raffle in the evening which took place at the Royal Clifton Hotel. A good time (networking) was had by all!
Wednesday 15th October
Unison’s President Lucia McKeever, first president from Northern Ireland, started the day by introducing herself and talking about her background. Her charity for the year is “Meningitis Now”. She has a particular interest in this charity as sadly a member of her close family died aged 13 years of this disease.
She then introduced the National Members’ Committee and the Mayor of Sefton, Kevin E Cluskey to Conference.
The Mayor welcomed us and told us that he was born and bred in the area and was also a lifelong trade unionist. He hoped that we would have a good conference and that we would enjoy the unique style of Southport much as Napoleon III had. Napoleon was so taken by the architecture and layout of Lord Street, it is alleged that it influenced the way Paris was re-designed.
The President presented the Mayor with a gift on behalf of Conference.
Standing Orders Committee and Annual Report
The SOC Report was presented by the chair of the Committee and accepted by conference. There are four new committee members this year.
David Kippest (Chair of the National Retired Members’ Committee) presented the annual report to conference, which was accepted. He touched on rule amendments carried by this year’s National Delegates Conference. In particular he mentioned those that have strengthened the position of the National Retired Members’ Organisation at branch level. He referred to the new “Code of Good Branch Practice” and the new “Branch Retired Members Secretary’s Handbook” which will reflect these important changes. Communication issues were acknowledged and will also be addressed.
He finished by asking the conference to consider selecting Motion 2 – Increase in the Basic State Pension and Motion 12 – Free Social Care in England to put forward to NDC.
Motions and Amendments
AM There were 25 motions some of which had amendments, 4 composites and 1 emergency motion. The motions started in the morning and recommenced in the afternoon. It was agreed to shorten the speaking times after motion 18 from 5 minutes to 3 minutes for the movers and 3 minutes to 2 minutes for subsequent speakers. The first 16 motions and 3 composites were dealt with in the morning.
We were asked to consider putting forward motions 2 and 12 to next year’s NDC.
Motion 2 – Increase in the Basic State Pension
The conference has instructed the National Retired Members’ Committee and calls on National Executive Committee to campaign for:
- an increase in the basic state pension to at lease the poverty level of £175.00 per week for a single pensioner and £325.00 for couples.
- a return to annual increases in the basic state pension based on the Retail Price Index (RPI) or the annual increase in average earnings or an increase sufficient to ensure that the basic state pension is no lower than the poverty level, which ever is the greater
- take positive action to make our concerns known to the Government through Labour Link, national and regional branches of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), local trades councils, by lobbying MPs and by supporting the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) and the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum in their campaigns
- report regularly on the progress to national retired members’ committee meetings and publicise on all appropriate communication channels, including the national Unison website, U Magazine, In-Focus, E-Focus. The information must also be circulated to regions and branches.
- Report back 2015 National Retired Members’ Conference on action taken and actual achievements.
Motion12 -Free Social Care in England
The conference has instructed the National Retired Members’ Committee to:
- urge the NEC to continue to bring together Unison’s campaigns on integration and free social care for older people
- raise this matter with the relevant Unison service group executives and seek to ensure that, in discussions about integration, Unison reflects the views both of Unison members employed in health and social care and Unison retired members who use the services
- raise the issue with National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC)
- publicise progress on the Unison National Retired Members’ web site and report results of discussions with Unison service group executives and the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) to all Unison National Retired Members’ Committee meetings in order to keep regions/branches informed. Work with the National Executive Council (NEC) to seek the backing of the whole union and other relevant bodies in mounting a major campaign aimed at improving payments and other help for carers so that our retired members and all other elderly people needing care can have their needs met without their carers being exploited.
Motion16 – Pensioners and Prostate Cancer
Allen was asked at very short notice to act as the mover for this motion! (He spoke on a similar motion last year). This motion was submitted by GLR and is about encouraging men to go for regular check ups as early diagnosis is very important for successful treatment. Currently 100 cases are diagnosed every day in the UK that’s 1 every 15 minutes!!
The conference called upon National Retired Members’ Committee to work with the NEC and other relevant organisations to:
- continue to campaign vigorously for greater understanding and factual awareness of prostate cancer, its treatment and the benefits of earliest screening for pensioners
- disseminate and publicise the research and other information about prostate cancer in Unison publications on the Unison National Retired Members’ web site, regional web sites and to branches.
PM The afternoon began with a speech from Cliff Williams (Unison Assistant General Secretary NEC and Head of Regions).
He talked about many of the issues affecting British workers. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation research for example has shown that more working families are in poverty than non-working. The UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet thousands are now dependent on food banks, many of whom are working. Many workers have sacrificed pay rises to keep their jobs. Yet MPs get a 10% rise in their pay whilst refusing a 1% increase for nurses and midwives!
The speech was mainly concentrated round the need to keep a political fund as this money gives us a voice to deal with many of the issues facing our members. This year we will be balloted (every 10 years) on whether to keep the political funds or not. All members including retired members have a right to vote.
All motions were carried unopposed, in spite of the chair’s attempt to influence the vote on motion 19 which would have caused further delayed by remitting it back for a further year. There were no card votes.
Close of Business
The two motions going to next year’s NDC are Motion 2 – Increase in the Basic State Pension and Motion 12 – Free Social Care in England.
Next years conference will be held in Brighton at the Conference Centre and in 2016 we will be back to Southport Convention Centre.
Report by Sue Clark, Verena Beane
Contributions from Allen Hawley and George Hulme
Unison Retired members Annual Conference 2014