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

Saturday, 23 October 2010

UNISON regional convenors hold annual seminar‏

On 21/22 October lay leaders from the 12 UNISON regions held their annual seminar at the NUT education centre in Stoke Rochford.

The event took place in the immediate aftermath of the Con Dem Government’s Comprehensive Spending review (CSR) which cuts £83 billion from public expenditure over the next four years and NEC Policy Chair Jane Carolan gave a detailed overview of the Government measures http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/2010SpendingReviewAnalysis1.pdf and outlined UNISON’s strategy to resist the cuts.

Northern regional convenor Clare Williams led a session on building community alliances and explained the impressive progress in the North East of England where a regional public services alliance and ten local coalitions in the main towns and cities had begun to make the voice of public service users and workers heard loud and clear. Workshops were held to review strategies for the ‘next 10 years’ given the likely impact of austerity measures and structural changes in public services.

Professor Keith Ewing of Kings College London gave a wide ranging talk on the political situation facing working people in the UK. He made parallels with similar challenges facing unions in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, stressing the need to be strategically smart in the deployment of industrial action in resisting the cuts given the repressive anti union laws regrettably left in place by the outgoing Labour Government. He described the CBI as the ‘continuity wing’ of the Thatcherite offensive against unions and outlined further anti union laws which they are pressing the Con Dem’s to adopt.

The second part of the seminar addressed organisational issues. A recent survey of regional convenors had highlighted impressive progress in partnership working across all UNISON regions with high levels of engagement in all cases although communications, financial oversight and increasing activist participation at branch and regional levels were identified as areas for further discussion with regional secretaries and at regional committees.

West Midlands regional convenor Sue Laws led a discussion on leadership development and succession planning at regional level. The successful launch of an annual national leadership school in 2009 was being supplemented by initiatives in service group and regional levels. Education initiatives for union leaders at branch level are being rolled out. Only 3 of the 20+ participants were male – a complete reversal of the position in the union’s formative years. A session was held to review the effectiveness of the branch assessment process which had been launched in 2008 in which UNISON regions play a pivotal role.

On a final point it was noted that the seminar marked the end of an era with the news that Mike Kirby, Convenor of UNISON Scotland since vesting day in 1993, had been appointed the union’s regional secretary in Scotland.