Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tuesday: First day of National Delegate Conference

Conference started with “The Presidents address”, it was a proud moment for this year’s President, Norma Stephenson, which she shared with her children and grandchildren who were sitting on the front row. Norma was pretty blunt about her disappointment about the actions of the Labour government and her concern that this will result in the Tories coming into power. She pointed out that many people in this hall had never known what it is like to live under a Tory government. She did and did want to experience it again.

Next we had various speakers trying to refer back the standing committee report (SOC). This was knocked back by an overwhelming majority of delegates. The Chair of SOC, Clytus, explained clearly and in great detail to conference exactly why these motions were ruled out of order.

First motion to be debated was on “Violence and Aggression Against Staff”. This was passed unopposed. Many safety reps had been disappointed on the lack of motions dealing with safety issues last time we were in Bournemouth so it was good to see health and safety being given the prominence it deserves.

I tried to speak on the next motion about “Defending, Celebrating and the improving the Minimum Wage” but got “bumped off” by someone raising a point of order to move to a vote before I could speak. I’ll post the speech anyway. I hope the early point of order had nothing to do with this being a motion discussing one of the Labour Government successes? Surely not? That was just a co-incidence? It was just in the interests of moving business on.

Next was the keynote speech by our General Secretary, Dave Prentis. Dave also had a dig at Gordon Brown and the Labour government. He hinted that UNISON will follow the GMB by withdrawing support from Labour MPs who do not support core UNISON values. He also suggested that UNISON and the GMB future is likely to be together. Apparently a UNISON predecessor union and the GMB were at one time united (Municipal Employees Union in 1899?). Through somewhat gritted teach I would agree that we should merge with the GBM if it proves possible. Many employers use “divide and rule” tactics. Also, we have just seen the GMB balloting against strike action over local government pay while we are balloting with a recommendation for strike action. While at the same time UNISON has accepted the Health service pay offer which the GMB health workers have rejected! Madness, but probably inevitable if you have separate unions in the same sector!

Dave also told another Tony Woodley joke. This time about his “relationship” with joint General Secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson. Dave had asked Tony what he would do if he saw Derek staggering, obviously hurt, in the street. Tony replied “I’ll reload”.

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