UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

NEC report - UNISON standing up for public services‏

NEC meeting 9 December 2009: UNISON is on course to achieve 1.5 million members by 2013 the NEC heard today. Excellent recruitment figures in October and November underpin Dave’s view that we are now starting to see the fruits of activist and staff engagement with ‘Meeting the Organising Challenge’.

With the South East (4%) hot on the heels of the best performing recruiting region, East Midlands (4.1%), it will be a close finish in this years recruitment race. This is reflected across all service groups and for the first time this year Local Government membership is predicted to grow. October figures were the best for three years and the January to October figures now exceed the performance in 2007. Also Health continues to see membership growth in excess of 3%.

Much of this is no doubt due to work in schools, on the back of School Support Staff Negotiating Body for England. The body aims to submit negotiated agreements and related guidance for ratification initially on

• Producing a core contract of employment to cover remuneration, duties and working time;
• Designing national job profiles to cover core support staff roles;
• Developing and producing a method for converting those job role profiles into a salary structure; and
• A strategy to implement effectively the national pay and conditions’ framework in all school maintained by local authorities in England including managing both transition and steady state.

The body covers school support staff employed by local education authorities or governing bodies in all maintained schools in England (except Academy schools). It excludes school teachers and other staff whose contract of employment is covered by agreements of other bodies e.g. Soulbury. The SSSNB will be a statutory negotiating body with an independent chair, Phillip Ashmore. The trade unions have 15 seats allocated as follows: Unison (8), GMB (4), UNITE (3). The employers side will be: Local Government Employers (8), the Catholic Education Services (2), the Church of England (2) and the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association (FASNA) (2).

The NEC heard how negotiations on the detail of a new national framework are ongoing and there will need to be agreement and detailed guidance over issues such as “no detriment” and an assimilation process and timetable. The equal pay implications are continually reviewed as well as the need to ensure members rights are protected if and when there is a transfer to a new agreement.

UNISON is committed to balloting members in schools on these proposals and regions have been asked to ensure their membership records are up to date. There is no timetable as yet for the ballot as this will depend on how the negotiations proceed . Nothing is agreed until it is all agreed” said Christina MacAnea and the process of negotiations is ongoing.

Elaine Cotterill from the North West asked whether facility time would be underpinned by legislation, but this is unlikely. It is hoped to reach a national agreement / protocol on trade union duties in schools although it should not be understated how difficult it will be.

No win No fee lawyers are putting huge resources into generating equal pay claims in Wales, which will further delay the progress we can make as a union in resolving this injustice for our members. Dave Prentis reflected on the “real leadership UNISON has shown on this issue and the challenges we face” and stressed “the need to constantly review what we have achieved how we take it forward into the future and embed it in the union”.

The NEC agreed to promote a number of issues to branches for submission to next years NDC around the theme of a ‘Million Voices’, Liz Snape said we need more than the 1% of branches who currently submit motions to engage in the process”. It was reported that many more branches have signed up for the million voices campaign , more and more activities are being badged locally with the campaign across the country. “This is critical to ensure we not only get our message across politically at a national level but also in communities and workplaces” said Dave. Northern region reported on a regional Million Voices Campaign in Durham in opposition to privatisation of health services.

A successful reception at the House of Commons heard eight UNISON members describing the realities of their jobs to Labour MPs. They told them “there is no such thing as back office and front line services as one cannot exist without the other, there are no soft or easy cuts to make to public services”. They also emphasised how public services workers often go the “extra mile” for the communities they serve not for profit but because public services matter.

Dave spoke about the Leeds workers refuse strike victory, agreed we do a note explaining exactly what the issues were and what happened and we would send thanks to the MP for Elmett, Leeds Colin Burgon who had supported the strikers from day one.

Dave reported breaking news from the High Court where UNISON won a judicial review against Monitor, the independent regulator of Foundation trusts. It was upheld that Monitor had failed to produce guidelines on what income can be earned from private patients. There is a cash limit placed on the trusts and this is an important judgement to ensure it is adhered to.

Dave also reported that 15,000 stewards have been trained last year which again is another example of the vibrancy and activity going on in the union.

On the recession Dave said UNISON speaks up for working people against those who have caused all the problems. Quoting from a press release he issued today in respect of the public sector pay cap “ I am not going to sign up to this. I know how our members feel – they feel angry and betrayed. It is just not on to make nurses, social workers, dinner ladies, cleaners and hospital porters pay the price for the folly of the bankers. The people who earn the most should pay the most. Instead we have the disgraceful spectacle of rich bankers threatening to leave the country if they don’t get there massive bonuses”. UNISON has produced an alternative budget http://www.unison.org.uk/asppresspack/pressrelease_view.asp?id=1670 and Dave stressed the need to cancel trident as part of that.

“The union is there to help our members in the hard times” said Dave “ which is why we must be united and and strong in the run-up to the election”

Describing the unions commitment to the environment and what we will be doing on climate change at Copenhagen it was noted that UNISON alone supported the ‘Wave’ organised by Stop Climate Chaos over the weekend.

Bob Oram in a written report highlighted the successful campaign internally in the union to ensure a recovery plan for the Staffs final salary scheme. After 18 briefings across the union 90% of the staff voted yes in a 76.5% turnout and showed that by working collectively with staff and trustees employers do not need to close schemes or slash benefits as many other employers have done. Jane Carolan asked that we get a note out to the whole union on the outcome so as to correct the misleading stories that did appear in the media attacking UNISON.

The NEC received reports on next years budget, 2009 accounts till September, the UNISON objective and priorities for next year, bargaining across service groups and a range of committee minutes.