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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

North West Regional Council agrees 'agenda for action'

Meeting in Manchester's Mechanics Institute yesterday, UNISON North West Regional Council reflected on the fact that massive job cuts inflicted on local authorities meant our recruitment figures for April 2011 were 1,165 compared to 1,812 in 2010. Branches have lost many long serving and experienced activists through the cuts and it was stressed how vital it is we replace them if we are to continue to build the strength of the union in the workplace.

Endorsing what Frank Hont Regional Secretary declared as “an operational plan” the Region recognised that since the general election in May 2010 the Tory / Lib Dem coalition have set about inflicting a programme of the most devastating funding cuts on Public Services under a smokescreen of false economics, allied to a legislative agenda of ‘reform’ on an unparalleled scale.

The speed and ferocity of these cuts have taken many of our members by surprise. Activists, members and staff alike are at risk of being completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the task they now face. “The vision of this strategy is to clearly set out our objectives in a way that is both manageable and dovetails with existing demands on our time and resources”.

Recognising that we are too often so preoccupied with the immediate issues we face that we lose sight of our ultimate goal, this plan aims to set out our UNISON objectives in relation to our opposition to the Government imposed cuts. It is intended that this will serve as a basis to explain our vision to activists, members and staff to provide a framework for more detailed planning to take place within various committees, branches and service groups in the North West region.

“Working within a framework of the union’s objectives is something that we are used to in UNISON and therefore the Regional anti cuts strategy will be embedded within the existing objectives and reinforce our determination to be an organising union”.

‘To meet the recruitment and organising challenge posed by austerity measures, including public spending cuts and increased outsourcing we will’

· Continue to use the Branch Assessment process to identify areas of weakness and ensure Branches are in a position to respond to the needs of members. Streamline the assessment outcomes to produce practical Development Plans along common themes as determined by the Regional Organising Committee.

· Draw up targeted recruitment and retention plans that address the areas hardest hit by the cuts

· Branch Officers and Branches to identify clear work plans and areas of responsibility.

· Continue to develop our organisation, including reorganising Branches where appropriate and support-based intervention where necessary.

· Review and respond to the changing training needs of stewards and activists.

· Clearly identify priorities within the union’s objectives and deploy appropriate resources at branch and regional level.

· Ensure plans are in place to keep in touch with members who retire or who are made redundant.

‘To protect and secure decent employment, pay and pensions for UNISON members, promoting equality and challenging discrimination we will’

· Maintain and monitor the Region’s Bargaining Advice resource pack. Ensure the advice to Branches is adopted and adhered to across the Region.

· Develop alternative bargaining strategies influenced by our experience.

· Publicise our ‘successes / wins’. Share the information across the Region.

· Continue to monitor and respond to the disproportionate impact of the cuts on specific groups within UNISON.

‘To develop our Million Voices campaign in support of quality public services, building our political influence and forging alliances with unions and community organisation we will’

· Deliver the Regional campaign strategy in partnership with branches, service groups and SOGs.

· Cascade the regional communication and media strategy

· Work with Branches to improve and increase direct contact with members and promote campaigning activity.

· Devise a comprehensive Political strategy for the Region that includes education and information for members, activists and staff so that they can be confident to engage with the arguments in their communities.

· Develop a programme of campaigning initiatives based on a geographical area involving all branches and where it promotes our members’ interests in the vicinity and in line with UNISON’s democracy guidelines.

· Develop the ‘alternative economic strategy’ in an accessible, understandable and usable format within a regional context.

· Continue to develop work with other affiliated Trade Unions and the North West TUC in line with the UNISON’s democracy guidelines.

‘To ensure that the union’s information and communications infrastructure and internal management systems are efficient and effective to meet the changing needs of our membership we will’

· Prioritise RMS updating and improvements.

· Regional Organising Committee to oversee the delivery of the anti-cuts strategy and to monitor and process associated GFF and GPF funds.

· Cascade the strategy to all branches, Regional Committees and Staff. Committees to set annual plans within the framework of the anti-cuts strategy.

· Branches and regional staff to maintain the collection of essential data around the impact of cuts in the North West.

· Improving information sharing between Branches and Regions and increasing the use of new techniques available to the Region when communicating with members.

“This is an agenda for action, for the future” said Frank. “It will not be easy but we owe it to our members, our future members and all those who rely on public services now and in the future.

The meeting welcomed Glen Williams as the new Regional Vice President and dealt with all other business relating to the AGM.

Bob Oram