It was a passionate but largely good tempered and well argued debate. UNISON had carried out a 6 week consultation of members beforehan and there was an unusually high response. 95% of branches that responded supported staying in Europe and believed that UNISON should actively campaign to do so.
The protection of workers' employment rights was a key issue for Unison members. Especially our female members who make up 1 million of our 1.3 million membership who benefit the most from EU legislation on parental leave, paid holiday, protection for part-timers and limits on excessive hours.
The European Union (EU) did come in for a lot of criticism even from those who supported staying in. Letting things stay as they are is not an option for anyone.
I argued in the debate that that it was no use criticising the EU and saying we should leave since it was a "capitalist club", because this is pointless since we already live in the a capitalist country and that we should reform both from within.
On a personal level I said why is it that I am the first male member of my family in 3 generations who has not had Germans trying to kill him or being sent to kill Germans? We should never forget that the EU was created to keep the peace between France, Germany and the UK.
Many people are rightly worried about international trade treaties between the EU and the USA/Canada. But it is Labour MEPs and other progressives in the EU who are holding back the UK government in its attempt to allow the destruction of public services in these treaties. Does anyone really think that an EU treaty would be worse than one negotiated by either Osborne or Boris with regard to public services?
My final point was that the EU has been criticised with justification for its attitude and bullying towards Greece. I pointed out that last month I had been to a solidarity delegation visit to Greece and much to my surprise, I did not come across any activists, trade unionists or left wing politicians who wanted to leave the EU. The ones I spoke to wanted us to remain and work with us to change the EU.
Yes, another Europe is possible.
(I am an elected member of the UNISON NEC for Housing Associations and Voluntary sector workers. The NEC is the 65 strong UNISON "Parliament" that meets to decide issues and progress policy in between our annual National Delegate Conference).
Last week my UNISON branch passed this motion here http://grayee.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/trade-unionists-for-in-tu4in.html and the website http://www.anothereurope.org/