UNISON’s NEC today unanimously supported General Secretary Dave Prentis' call for the immediate announcement of a £10 million war chest on top of our £10 million Industrial Action Fund. This would enable us “to fight the cuts and defend our members” as we go into battle against the worst attacks on public services in living memory.
Sending a message of support to the National Union of Students in their heroic struggles against the increases in tuition fees, Dave praised their example and those UNISON regions who are building Public Service Alliances and working with communities and service users to save public services.
“We need to be bolder and more radical in the way we oppose the cuts, raising our profile and showing real leadership – with every part of the union coming together – speaking and campaigning as one” he said.
Clare Williams from the Northern region re-iterated that health service cuts must be central to the campaigning work of the union as the NHS white paper proposals represent a massive shakeup, with the potential to cause huge damage to patient care and waste vast sums of public money.
Referring to the Con Dem’s plans to have the head of McDonalds leading on dealing with obesity, she ridiculed the plan as originally believing it was a spoof. “This White Paper will affect our members but the cuts are so bad that this is an open door through which we can also mobilise communities and service users” said Clare.
Newly elected Local Government representative Paul Gilroy highlighted the devastating cuts in Councils and the need for UNISON to challenge the limits on capitalisation to fund redundancy costs. Noting that without this Branch negotiated improvements to statutory redundancy pay will be in jeopardy, compulsory redundancies will increase resulting in a downward spiral of ever increasing job losses to fund redundancy costs.
Ian Fleming of Northern region in his maiden speech, called for UNISON to arrange co-ordinated meetings across all regions with community groups and other unions in advance of the national demonstration on March 26th next year.
After a lengthy debate Dave summed up the mood of the whole NEC by referring to the human tragedies that lie behind the Con Dems savage cuts. “Every redundancy is a personal tragedy for that family, a devastating blow to their future and must never be forgotten behind statistics and overall numbers” he said.
Agreeing with the need to mobilise locally Dave called on everyone to raise their game in building alliances and working with community groups to oppose the cuts and organise for the 26th March. Praising the call from the East Midlands Region to get every steward to agree to go on that demonstration, Dave called for the whole union to seek and guarantee that commitment and ensure our presence is the largest it possibly can be. Branches do have resources and they need to spend some of that money to ensure good practice and activities are replicated across the whole country.
Dave also proposed a message of support and solidarity to UNISON members on strike in Swindon and encouraged support for their hardship fund.
On pensions the NEC received a report updating on UNISONs submissions and responses to the Hutton Commission on Public Sector pensions. The final report is due before the budget in March and will be the ‘tipping’ point moment in any decision on national industrial action on pensions. We are looking to co-ordinate campaigning and organising initiatives around pensions and will be working closely with the TUC on this.
The change from RPI to CPI as the calculator for index-linking arrangements for pensions and benefits is tantamount to the theft of millions of pounds by the Con Dem government from our pension schemes and all Branch’s need to be doing more in raising awareness, anger and mobilising members to lobby MP’s over this change (Model letter on Early day motion 1032 is currently on UNISON’s web site).
We received an update on organising which shows the union is on track to exceed its national membership growth target of 1.75% by the end of the year. The NEC noted that the October figures are marginally below the same period in the previous two years but the January to October figures are the best for three years
New streamlined UNISON objectives for 2011 were agreed.
The NEC received a report on UNISON’s finances. The budget for 2011 delivers the aims of a balanced budget supporting our objectives whilst meeting demands on the union such as equal pay and certain capital costs. The balance sheet at the end of the year is strong and we are in a good position to face the challenges ahead.
It was agreed to waive the visitor charges for Annual Conference for 2011.
The NEC welcomed new members Paul Gilroy (Local Government), Graham Smith (Young members), Ian Fleming (Northern region), Nicola Nijie (Energy), Max Watson (Higher Education) and John Mackfall (Police)
The NEC also noted and welcomed the new appointments of Liz Snape, Bronwyn McKenna, Cliff Williams and Roger McKenzie as new Assistant General Secretaries.
By Bob Oram
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