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

Monday, 26 March 2012

TUC Young Members Conference

UNISON’s Young Members clearly set the tone at this year’s TUC Young Members Conference, making interventions on a wide range of motions, from fair representation for women in our movement, to the scourge of homeless that is affecting more and more young people.

The Conference started out with Fern McCaffery, TUC Young Members Committee Chair, (GMB) setting the tone for the day: "with the attacks the Tory-run government are making on young people, we have so many issues to fight against: unemployment, underemployment, attacks on training prospects, and defending jobs and services."

Paul Nowak, TUC head of organising, outlined the difficulties currently faced in the climate of cuts and attacks on public services. He outlined the need for continuing to organise and build our membership base to stand up against the attacks of the forces that would like to see our movement crushed.

Liam Burns, NUS president, then expressed the need for the trade union movement to continue to work closely with the NUS following on from the Living Wage campaign run in conjunction with UNISON. He then went on to outline his views on the current challenges facing young people.

Delegates then took part in workshops on ‘Young workers at the sharp end; apprentices, interns and agency workers’, ‘The Great recession and youth employment’, and ‘Organising and involving young workers in unions’.

This was followed by the afternoon session which was when the formal conference kicked off. Six of the fourteen motions of the conference were heard on Saturday – UNISON’s amendment to the constitution ensured that either the Chair or Vice must be a woman. We also contributed on issues like workfare and the impact it has on both job security and dignity for the unemployed, while other motions focused on fighting for decent pension rights and against the attacks on young people by the government.

Unfortunately, our colleages from PCS Young Members voted against four of those six motions, creating a clear mood of division in the room. We worked with other unions in the spirit of unity against the attacks on our members and movement despite that to ensure that this was the best TUC YM Conference that anyone on the delegation has been to – old hands included!

On the Sunday, the remainder of the motions were heard and approved near-unanimously – the highlight for us was obviously UNISON’s motion: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ being voted as the conference’s motion to Congress 2012.

We look forward to working with other TUC unions this year in a clear spirit of unity against this government. Personally, this year’s conference was the best I’ve been to, and I hope that this continues in the future – I have confidence that UNISON’s delegation, both old and new, will make that happen.

Graham Smith