Thursday, October 02, 2008

UNISON London Health Training Conference 2008

This was one of the best trade union training conferences I have ever been to – well done to the organisers, guest speakers and participants.

There were over 150 delegates from UNISON health branches all over London. The conference took place in Congress House and was chaired by deputy regional convenor, Conroy Lawrence (see Picture 2nd left who is a Lewisham hospital electrician).

The first speaker was UNISON London regional manager, Maggi Ferncombe. Who spoke about the Equalities Agenda. Public bodies such as Council’s and NHS trusts (and newly nationalised Banks???) have statutory duties to counter race, disability and gender discrimination. This is enforced by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights. Of course, this is a prime trade union issue. Equality issues are not just the responsibility of a branch equality officer, branch secretary or regional officer, but is everyone’s responsibility. It is potentially a huge bargaining issue for branches. Instead of being reactive to individual discrimination cases by taking out employment tribunals you can be proactive by using these duties to combat collective discrimination in the first place.

Maggi did get me thinking about whether housing associations are “public bodies”? It appears that the duties regarding disability and gender do apply but that Race for some reason does not? Need to do a bit more digging.

Next speaker was London UNISON’s favourite solicitor, Henrietta Phillips, from Thompson's, who by co-incidence, gave a similar well received briefing on “Violence at Work” (see this post) to the regional health & safety committee last week.

After lunch, national officer Dave Godson briefed everyone on the "Future organisation of Foundation Trusts". Followed by an impassioned talk by London Ambulance branch secretary, Eric Roberts, about the Cuba appeal for a new Havana ambulance control centre. They have raised £45,000. Excellent news! Keith Sonnet, UNISON Deputy General Secretary also gave an update on the appeal and the situation facing Cuba which still suffers terribly from the USA embargo.

The final speaker was Ruth Carnall, the Chief Executive of the NHS in London. She gave a very competent speech I thought, which was well directed towards her audience. Ruth openly admitted that in the past, health policies for London had failed. This time she argued, the London plan will be successful because it is clinically lead and that it is not over ambitious – it will concentrate on limited aims that are achievable rather than trying to change everything at once. The plan is also in “complete alignment” to national policy. The most difficult issue she suggested will be persuading trusts who have managed their budgets efficiently to have part of their surpluses used to pay off the deficits of other trusts. She handled the Q&A very well. While, I have no doubt that there are a number of particular issues that UNISON will not agree with, it would appear that the wholesale privatisation and market testing that appeared to be on the London agenda a few years ago, has been seen off.

There was then a wide ranging open forum with the regional secretary, Linda Perks, Keith Sonnet, Ruth Carnell, London Convenor Gloria Hanson (picture 3rd from left) and Regional manager Chris Remington.

At the end, my fellow regional council officer Lynn Bentley(picture 4th from left) and I gave out the Labour Link raffle prizes. The top prize was of course a bottle of the finest Sainsbury Champagne. Which a lucky Lady UNISON member come Champagne socialist won!

At the conference there were a number of stalls manned (is there a non sexist term?) by UNISON affiliates, retired members and Labour Link. I was really encouraged to see that despite the "problems" that the Labour Party faces at the moment, UNISON members were queuing up to join the Party and wanting to be kept in touch with UNISON Labour Link.

This was a grown up Labour movement conference. Bringing people together, training them, and educating them and even inspiring them. There was no political posturing, ranting or grandstanding. Sharp questions were asked and answered. Real issues discussed and debated. A “grown up” union event, the kind of thing which I think we need more of in This (still) Great Movement of Ours.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great day
branch looking forward to next year
good to see you
i note the trots left early all two of them

the other 165 stayed

two to many Trots