On Thursday evening I went to one of the two briefings on "Branch Resources Review" ably chaired by North West regional convener, Diane Kelly, together with my fellow NEC members Mike Hayes, Josie Bird and Elizabeth Cameron. As well as Sotirios Loizou, Regional & Branch Development Officer and Steve Tasker, Director of Finance.
On average each UNISON branch receives back 23% of its members subscriptions. While the basic rate is 20% it varies due to geographical spread, reserves, whether you represent multi-employers or not and participate in our internal democracy (such as turning up to conference). The highest is 31% while the lowest is 17%.
UNISON has around 1000 branches and income of £170 million per year. This is a lot of money. There has been a growth in branch reserves from £33 million in 2002 to £55 million. However, most of these reserves earn an appalling rate of interest. Some £45 million of reserves only earns £58,000 (0.12%) interest per year. Which is just silly. UNISON estimates that if we invested these funds collectively (while ownership still remaining with branches) that we would earn at least £1 million extra per year! Which to me is also a no brainier.
The review is also looking at encouraging branches (where it makes sense) to share resources and facilities with each other. Getting the money right is probably the most important thing the union can do. If we don't get this right then everything else we want to do is under threat.
As a former branch treasurer, current secretary and regional finance convener I thought the fringe went well but there were a few unhappy folk who seemed to me to carp and moan somewhat unnecessarily. Ironically they reminded me of a couple of tenant residents meetings I've attended in the past where I was in the firing line because as you know - all council officers are useless, overpaid and forget who are paying their wages etc. Now I know people are worried about change but in a trade union setting I found such criticism to be honest - pretty off. Anyway, onwards and forwards.